Analysis: Grading Seahawks 2019 Rookie Class
Last April, Seahawks general manager John Schneider masterfully navigated the 2019 NFL Draft through a series of trades, transforming four picks into 11 new players.
Schneider and coach Pete Carroll envisioned this group making an immediate impact, but while there's still plenty of excitement about the future of the class, only a handful of players wound up contributing as hoped in their first NFL seasons.
With their rookie years in Seattle now officially in the books, here's a look at how the 2019 season unfolded for all 11 rookies, including what went right, areas of improvement, and a final grade.
L.J. Collier - Round 1, Pick No. 29
What Went Right: It’s tough to find any semblance of a bright spot for Collier, who finished with three tackles while dressing for 11 games and was for the most part an invisible man. But it wasn’t all his fault. Set back by an ankle sprain in the preseason, the former TCU standout couldn’t catch up during the regular season and as Carroll continued to reiterate, the numbers game along the defensive line didn’t work in his favor most of the year.
Areas of Improvement: Across the board, Collier has to prove Seattle didn’t waste its first-round selection in a draft class loaded with defensive line talent. He must stay healthy and use the upcoming offseason to position himself for a second-year emergence similar to teammate Rasheem Green. If he can do that, it wouldn’t be surprising to see him become a valuable rotational defender as a base defensive end and be far more impactful than he was as a rookie.
Year One Grade: F
Marquise Blair - Round 2, Pick No. 47
What Went Right: Thrust into a starting role in the middle of the season, Blair registered 22 tackles, a pass defensed, and a forced fumble in three starts before the acquisition of Quandre Diggs pushed him back to the bench. He played sparingly on defense from that point on, but still showed off his hard-hitting mentality a few times, including forcing a fumble in the season finale against the 49ers.
Areas of Improvement: Many questioned why Blair didn’t receive an opportunity to play earlier in the season, but trust issues prevented him from supplanting Tedric Thompson in the starting lineup. Like Collier, he fell behind in the offseason due to injuries and Carroll clearly wasn’t satisfied with his understanding of the defensive scheme. To play more in 2020, he’ll have to show he has mastered the defense and cut down on botched coverage assignments.
Year One Grade: C-
DK Metcalf - Round 2, Pick No. 64
What Went Right: Silencing his critics quickly, Metcalf set a franchise record with 89 receiving yards in his NFL debut and never looked back. Dwarfing defenders with his 6-foot-4, 230-pound frame, he became a favorite go-to target for Russell Wilson and finished the season ranked among league leaders in receptions (58), receiving yardage (900), and touchdowns (7) for first-year players. He also averaged 15.5 yards per reception, finishing 14 in the league among qualified receivers.
Areas of Improvement: While Metcalf’s first season in Seattle was largely a success, he’ll be looking to improve upon his 58 percent catch rate, starting with eliminating dropped passes. According to Pro Football Reference, he had seven drops in 2019, which equates to nearly 10 percent of his targets. He also fumbled three times during the season and will need to work on ball security.
Year One Grade: A-
Cody Barton - Round 3, Pick No. 88
What Went Right: Forced into the starting lineup when Mychal Kendricks battled hamstring and knee injuries late in the season, Barton earned four starts at strongside linebacker and gradually improved by week. After racking up 10 tackles and a quarterback hit in Week 15 against the Panthers, he enjoyed his finest game as a pro during a 17-9 wild card win over the Eagles, showing off his excellent coverage skills and athleticism with two passes defensed and his first NFL sack.
Areas of Improvement: While Barton displayed why Carroll has been so complimentary of his coverage skills since arriving last May, his run defense isn't near as polished. He struggled with executing run fits, dislodging from blocks, and maintaining the edge during his four starts, allowing opponents to find success on fly sweeps and toss plays. To win a full-time starting job next year, he'll need to show growth in all three of those areas.
Year One Grade: B-
Gary Jennings - Round 4, Pick No. 120
What Went Right: Jennings survived roster cuts despite a poor preseason performance, but that's where the good news came to a halt. He didn't dress for a single regular season game before the addition of Josh Gordon led to his departure.
Areas of Improvement: After being cut by the Seahawks and claimed by the Dolphins in November, Jennings will have to put a wasted rookie season behind him in south Florida and try to rectify his career in 2020.
Year One Grade: F
Phil Haynes - Round 4, Pick No. 124
What Went Right: Injuries derailed Haynes' first year in Seattle, but when called upon in the divisional round against the Packers, he stepped in and performed admirably at left guard during the team's second half rally. Following his first NFL action, Carroll indicated in his final press conference that he would have a shot to compete for a starting role in 2020.
Areas of Improvement: Based on little game film to work with, Haynes had his share of problems protecting Wilson against the Packers and will need to adjust his game with a mobile quarterback extending plays behind him. Health will be key for him as he looks to replace Mike Iupati at left guard next season.
Year One Grade: D+
Ugo Amadi - Round 4, Pick No. 132
What Went Right: Though he didn't hold on to the starting nickel role after Week 1, Amadi provided a spark for Seattle's special teams throughout his rookie season, downing several Michael Dickson punts inside the opposing five-yard line. He wasn't credited with a single missed tackle on defense or special teams either. Once he resumed the nickel role late in the season, he nearly reeled in his first career pick-six in Carolina and played well against Philadelphia in a playoff victory.
Areas of Improvement: Simply lacking experience, Amadi needs additional reps working in coverage out of the slot against NFL-caliber receivers. He was only targeted 11 times this year, but allowed nine receptions for 83 yards, including 72 yards after the catch. Expect Seattle to bring in some competition for him heading into 2020.
Year One Grade: B
Ben Burr-Kirven - Round 5, Pick No. 142
What Went Right: Wasting little time establishing himself as a core special teams player, Burr-Kirven forced a fumble on punt coverage in the season-opener against the Bengals. He wound up playing 306 special teams snaps for Seattle, second-most on the team behind only Barton.
Areas of Improvement: Undersized at 230 pounds, it remains unclear where Burr-Kirven may fit into Seattle's future plans on defense. He will continue to work at weakside and middle linebacker as a backup with hopes of eventually earning some playing time, but for now, he should focus on becoming a Heath Farwell-type player who excels on special teams.
Year One Grade: C-
Travis Homer - Round 6, Pick No. 204
What Went Right: Like Barton, injuries forced Homer into significant playing time for Seattle late in the season and he capitalized on his opportunity. Showing off his explosiveness as an outside runner, he rushed for 62 yards on 10 carries in a close loss to the 49ers in Week 17 and also caught 11 passes in the final two games of the season. Additionally, he played 217 snaps on special teams and returned kicks late in the year.
Areas of Improvement: While Homer has elite burst and quickness, his ball carrier vision leaves something to be desired and at just 200 pounds, he isn't necessarily built for running between the tackles on a regular basis. With Chris Carson and Rashaad Penny expected to be back next season, he may slide back into primarily playing special teams, though his pass protection prowess could potentially make him a viable third down back candidate next year.
Year One Grade: B-
Demarcus Christmas - Round 6, Pick No. 209
What Went Right: Christmas didn't appear in a single game due to a back injury that kept him on the PUP list throughout the season. But at least the former Florida State starter didn't lose a roster spot like Jennings did and will have a chance to compete next year.
Areas of Improvement: It's impossible to evaluate Christmas because he didn't play any preseason or regular season snaps. He'll be starting from scratch as if he's still a rookie when the team reconvenes in April.
Year One Grade: I (Incomplete)
John Ursua - Round 7, Pick No. 236
What Went Right: When he finally got a chance to play in Week 17, Ursua caught an 11-yard pass from Wilson that nearly helped Seattle edge San Francisco for an NFC West title. It was his only target on the season and he finished with a 100 percent catch rate.
Areas of Improvement: It was out of his control, but Ursua rarely saw the field as a rookie, playing 11 total snaps as a receiver in four games. The fact he didn't receive more chances was perplexing, especially after Gordon was suspended indefinitely, and the lack of reps makes him tough to assess. To help his cause next year, he needs to figure out how to contribute on special teams, as he didn't play a single special teams snap.
Year One Grade: D-