Seahawks 2021 Draft Class Superlatives

With Seattle's 2021 draft class taking shape, which player has the best chance to start right away? Who will be the biggest surprise? Who will be the preseason breakout star? The Seahawk Maven writing staff shares their predictions via superlatives.
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Though the Seahawks only made three selections in the 2021 NFL Draft, the organization has added several intriguing undrafted free agents to build a compelling rookie class heading into the team's offseason program.

To help introduce Seattle's 2021 class, which features 13 undrafted free agent signees and one international allocation along with three draft picks, the Seahawk Maven writing staff dished out their annual rookie superlatives.

Most Surprising

Corbin Smith (CS): Jarrod Hewitt

Though the Seahawks have prioritized adding depth at the defensive end position, they could still use help replacing Jarran Reed's production at the 3-tech defensive tackle position. The 290-pound Hewitt has solid athletic traits and a quick first step, which allowed him to produce 9.5 sacks at Virginia Tech the past two years. He could be in the mix for a final roster spot with that skill set.

Ty Gonzalez (TG): Cade Johnson

Much of the focus will be on second round pick D'Wayne Eskridge, but Johnson may be the rookie receiver who ends up stealing the show in camp. His stellar route running and after-the-catch work is going to giving him a great chance to earn one of the remaining roster spots at the position.

Nick Lee (NL): Cade Johnson

Not so much a player that could surprise, because it would be no surprise at all if this kid plays well, but I am shocked that Johnson went undrafted. He just knows how to be a receiver. He racked up 28 touchdowns in three years at South Dakota State. He runs routes well. Some mock drafts, including several of mine, had him going early in day three. He could be an absolute steal.

Matty Brown (MB): Tre Brown

Up until the Brown selection, the Seahawks had never taken an outside cornerback with arms shorter than the 32-inch mark. We were all aware of the increased possibility of a new Seattle cornerback mold after Pete Carroll’s comments following the success of the 5-foot-9 D.J. Reed. However, Reed has 31 5/8-inch arms; Brown 30 3/8-inch. Furthermore, Seattle repeatedly turned down athletic long corner alternatives. The scrappy, fiery, twitched-up Brown pushes the Seahawks corner room to new extremities.

Most Pressure to Reach Ceiling

CS: Stone Forsythe

As a rookie, Forsythe won't have to worry about jumping into the starting lineup with Duane Brown and Brandon Shell returning and he will have time to develop. But both of those veterans will be free agents next March and Brown will turn 36 in August, so eventually, he's going to be thrust into action at either spot. Assuming he's Brown's successor at some point, he's going to have some massive shoes to fill in Seattle.

TG: Tre Brown

Trading back from pick No. 129 to 137 in the fourth round, the Seahawks missed out on a cornerback who better fit their preferred traits: Robert Rochell, who went to the Rams at No. 130.  Given the limited amount of selections they had and the current uncertainty surrounding their group of corners, Brown's career is naturally going to be compared to those drafted near him, namely Rochell and Marco Wilson. 

NL: Tre Brown

This is not necessarily D'Wayne Eskridge because there are two guys named Lockett and Metcalf carrying most of the load on the outside. The Seahawks’ corner situation is far from resolved, however, putting quick pressure on Brown to justify his selection in the fourth round. He is undersized and there were plenty of bigger corners still on the board and the Seahawks have to hope he proves valuable. They need him to be good right away more than any other rookie.

MB: D'Wayne Eskridge

The Seahawks left the first waves of free agency without adding receiver competition behind DK Metcalf and Tyler Lockett. The remaining depth is either disappointing from a development standpoint or unknown. Eskridge needs to hit the ground running for Shane Waldron to have the three consistent receiving threats on the field that he desires. The final pressure-increaser is the players Seattle passed up to pick him: High-upside interior linemen like Oklahoma’s Creed Humphrey and athletic, long cornerback choices such as Minnesota’s Benjamin St-Juste.

Most Likely to Start Right Away

CS: D’Wayne Eskridge

No, Eskridge won't be beating Tyler Lockett or DK Metcalf out for one of the top two receiver spots. But the Seahawks should still run a lot of 11 personnel with one running back, one tight end, and three receivers. While Freddie Swain will see some snaps, I would expect the speedy, versatile gadget out of Western Michigan to get most of them as the third receiver who can play outside and in the slot, especially with the team expected to run with more pace under coordinator Shane Waldron.

TG: D'Wayne Eskridge

Adding upside in the receiving corps behind DK Metcalf and Tyler Lockett was a must-have for the Seahawks this offseason. With David Moore in Carolina, Phillip Dorsett in Jacksonville, and Josh Gordon now a free agent and still suspended, Seattle had Freddie Swain and a handful of pass-catchers on reserve/future contracts heading into the draft. That simply wasn't going to get the job done and they knew it, bringing in Eskridge to give this offense a dimension it's severely lacked. 

NL: Tre Brown

It's got to be Brown again. He just needs to beat out two of Tre Flowers, Ahkello Witherspoon, and D.J. Reed. We all know what Flowers is and what he is not. I think Brown has the mental makeup and ball skills to win one of the starting corner spots with a stellar training camp. 

MB: D'Wayne Eskridge

Eskridge may not technically be listed as a ‘starter’ on the sheets handed out to the media, as teams tend to list just two starting receivers. However, the Seahawks offense will use 11 personnel the most on offense (3 wide receivers, 1 tight end, and 1 running back). Eskridge has a skillset that will allow him to play outside and inside. Besides Metcalf and Lockett, there is no other obvious No. 3 receiver candidate. His talent will enable him to focus on the Z receiver or ‘flanker’ role, shifting Lockett to the slot.

Most Likely to Make Pro Bowl

CS: Tre Brown

In terms of playmaking ability, Eskridge has the upside to be a Pro Bowl caliber player, but he might not get enough opportunities to make it happen unless it's on special teams. Brown, however, has a shot to compete for significant snaps immediately on the outside and coach Pete Carroll knows how to develop players at his position. If his success at Oklahoma translates to Seattle, he has a chance to be a long-term answer in the secondary and become the team's next Pro Bowl cornerback.

TG: Tre Brown

Brown's speed and physicality is going to be something to behold if he's able to rein in his aggressiveness a little. The size is going to be a concern, especially for a team that's new to starting smaller corners on the outside, but he's shown the ability to play well beyond his physical limitations against the best receivers to come out of college football the past few years. If he puts it all together, there could be multiple Pro Bowl selections in his future.

NL: Tre Brown

I must be the chairman of the Tre Brown fan club because here we go again. He will be put in the best position to succeed and put up the necessary numbers to make a Pro Bowl. While Eskridge might play well enough to warrant consideration down the road, there are two beasts ahead of him that will gobble up targets and you don't see too many third receivers on a roster make the Pro Bowl.

MB: Conor Wedington

Okay, I’m not sure I truly believe this, but here’s a new name for what’s a stupidly bold "most likely” prediction. I’m more confident with the overall thinking behind it given that the Seahawks, once more, have clearly emphasized special teams in their rookie strategy. Rather than the return talents of Brown or Eskridge, Wedington – a college special teams star – wins the job and makes a year one Pro Bowl as a returner for his hometown team. Weddington returned 21 kickoffs for Stanford in 2019 for a 28.1 yards per return average and 590 yards total. Maybe not likely, but enjoy a different name!

Must-Watch in Preseason

CS: Aaron Donkor

Joining the Seahawks as part of the NFL's International Player Pathway Program, the 26-year old Donkor most recently played one season for Arkansas State at the FBS level and only has played football for five years. But he's a freakish athlete, as the 240-pound linebacker ran a 4.46 40-yard dash and posted a 39-inch vertical jump at the international combine. He may be the biggest unknown heading into the Seahawks offseason and it will be fascinating to see how the stacks up against NFL competition in exhibition games.

TG: Josh Johnson

Set back by COVID-19 and a hamstring injury, Johnson wasn't able to get going in his final year at Louisiana-Monroe. But the undrafted free agent signing is just a season removed from putting up nearly 1,300 yards on the ground and has quickly become a favorite of the Seahawks fanbase. Excited to play in the Pacific Northwest, Johnson could be an electric player in the latter halves of Seattle's preseason games this summer.

NL: Cade Johnson

A roster spot isn't simply given to undrafted players, but again, Johnson looks like the most likely candidate to make Seattle's 53-man roster from this undrafted group and he will get to prove his worth in August. I expect to see him make numerous plays in preseason games out of the slot and on special teams to help secure his place on the opening day roster.

MB: Tamorrion Terry

We’ve seen this story before. The Seahawks have a tall and fast receiver tear up the preseason who endears himself to fans, and then the presumed future star fails to make the roster, much to the bemusement to those on the outside. At 6-foot-2 3/4-inches, 207 pounds, Terry ran a 4.45-second 40-yard-dash and jumped 126 inches in the broad. Though a 32 1/2 inch vertical jump was more disappointing and Terry’s tape suffers from inconsistent hands, he still meets the preseason darling profile.

Best Value

CS: Cade Johnson

This may be the easiest category on this list because it's inexplicable that Johnson went undrafted. Even in a class loaded at the position, he stands out as a precise route runner who understands how to get open and possesses excellent quickness in and out of his breaks. He has a chance to push for some snaps out of the slot and on special teams right away with the Seahawks.

TG: Cade Johnson

Suffering the consequences of a poor pro day performance, Johnson quickly went from potential day two pick to undrafted free agent. Despite his rough testing numbers and undersized frame, however, his ability on the field is undeniable. Getting him in the mid rounds of the draft would have been a more than understandable move, but as an undrafted free agent, this is an excellent value play for Seattle.

NL: Cade Johnson

Going back to my most surprising development of draft weekend, Johnson has a chance to be a very valuable undrafted signee. While his pro day wasn't great, he has the physical skills, the quickness, and the work ethic to actually make the 53-man roster right out of the gate. Freddie Swain, John Ursua, and Penny Hart are likely already looking over their shoulders.

MB: Stone Forsythe

A lesser, but still obvious, Seahawks need entering the draft was a left tackle succession plan for Duane Brown, who turns 36 in August. That Seattle was able to snag the potential replacement the sixth round is remarkable. Enter the 6-foot-8 Stone Forysthe, who has the profile you’d look for in a tackle. He was regularly put on an island by Florida’s spread offense and empty protection-heavy system. Most draftniks, impressed by Forysthe’s polished pass protection technique, had Forysthe as a second round player. Seattle already plans for Forsythe - whose father spent time on the Bengals - to compete at right tackle with Brandon Shell and learn under Brown.

Biggest Wild Card

CS: Josh Johnson

The Seahawks have a loaded backfield after re-signing Chris Carson and Alex Collins to go with Rashaad Penny, DeeJay Dallas, and Travis Homer, so undrafted rookies will have a very tall task trying to usurp any of those players on the depth chart. But Johnson has the size (5-foot-9, 215 pounds) and physical running style that the team covets, he possesses overlooked burst in open field, and he's a quality pass protector. With a strong preseason and training camp, it's not out of the question the former Warhawks star could put Collins, Dallas, or Homer's status on thin ice and eventually push for playing time on Sundays.

TG: Pier-Olivier Lestage

If you're able to find some tape of Lestage, you'll be intrigued with what you find. However, it's hard not to wonder just how applicable his talent will be to the NFL. The Canadian could be in for a rude awakening stateside, but there's also the off-chance he winds up presenting himself as a welcome discovery for a team with significant questions at center long-term.

NL: Jarrod Hewitt

Hewitt could be the next Jarran Reed or the next Demarcus Christmas. That's the definition of a true undrafted wild card. The Seahawks certainly hopes it's the former, since they did not replace Reed with a player of the same skillset along the interior of the defensive line in free agency or the draft. He could be next in a long line of successful undrafted defensive tackles following Poona Ford, Bryan Mone, and Cedrick Lattimore.

MB: Pier-Olivier Lestage

The Seahawks tried, and failed, to upgrade the center spot by adding B.J. Finney in free agency last year. Finney turned up to camp overweight and failed to win the job. Returning starter Ethan Pocic’s ceiling remains the same with his weaknesses still capping the offense, most notably on run game combination blocks. Seattle clearly feels good about Kyle Fuller as an option. Lestage, added as an undrafted free agent out of the University of Montreal, could be their value pickup though. At 6-foot-3, 312 pounds, he has the 33-inch-long arms that the Seahawks favor from their interior line options. His tape has nasty and movement skills, he can snap the ball ambidextrously, plus he arrives with the endorsement of long-time NFL line coach Paul Alexander.