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Charles Cross Has Tough Acts to Follow as Seahawks' Top-10 Pick Protecting Blind Side

While not every tackle drafted by Seattle in the first round has turned into a star, the majority of them have become immediate starters. Being a top-10 selection, Cross has plenty of pressure on him to live up to lofty standards set by predecessors before him.

Becoming the first top-10 pick for the Seahawks in more than a decade in the 2022 NFL Draft, Charles Cross enters the NFL with an tremendous amount of talent and upside at his disposal.

Only 21 years old, Cross emerged as one of college football's premier pass protectors last season at Mississippi State, turning in sensational performances against loaded SEC opponents such as Alabama. In his final matchup against the Crimson Tide last season, he didn't allow a single pressure on 66 pass-blocking snaps, and he wrapped up the year yielding just two sacks and no additional quarterback hits on 719 pass-blocking snaps.

As a result of his consistent excellence, Cross earned First-Team All-SEC distinction and received First-Team All-American recognition from ESPN and the Sporting News, capping off his collegiate career in style.

But as Cross embarks on the start of what he and Seattle hopes will be a long, highly-successful NFL career in the Pacific Northwest, there's no shortage of pressure on the young blind side protector. Being selected ninth overall immediately after the departures of legendary icons Russell Wilson and Bobby Wagner, the onus will fall on him to deliver as one of the building blocks for the franchise's next contender.

Even at 6-foot-5, 315 pounds, that's a lot of weight for a young man such as Cross to carry on his shoulders. The triumphs of past tackles selected that early in the draft by the Seahawks won't ease the burden either.

In 47 years of existence, Seattle has only made 17 picks in the top-10 and has made three such selections since 2002. Prior to Cross' selection last month, only three of their previous top-10 selections were used on tackles, but each of those players made their mark in their own way.

Back in 1992, coming off a disappointing 7-9 season that led to the dismissal of coach Chuck Knox, the Seahawks selected tackle Ray Roberts out of Virginia with the 10th overall pick. Finding his way into the starting lineup on day one at left tackle, he started all 16 regular season games, helping Chris Warren rush for 1,000 yards for the first time in his career.

Over the next two years, while Seattle remained a non-factor in the AFC West due to poor quarterback play, Roberts started 30 out of 32 regular season games. Playing at a Pro Bowl level, he opened up run lanes for Warren to explode for 2,617 yards and 16 touchdowns during that span. While he didn't get to play in Honolulu either time, Warren did thanks in large part to the play of the left tackle in front of him.

Injuries wound up derailing Roberts fourth and final season in Seattle, limiting him to 11 games with no starts. He wound up in Detroit as a free agent the next season, but he played at a high level amid difficult circumstances during his tenure in the Pacific Northwest and in retrospect, he proved to be a solid pick. On more competitive teams, he may have earned a Pro Bowl nod or two.

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Two years after Roberts departed, the Seahawks again invested a top-10 pick at left tackle, this time selecting Florida State's Walter Jones sixth overall. Though it took him a few years before he earned his first Pro Bowl in 1999, "Big Walt" quickly emerged as one of the best blind side defenders in NFL history, earning six All-Pro selections and nine Pro Bowl selections in his illustrious 12-year career.

An immediate starter out of the gate, Jones remarkably gave up just 23 sacks over more than 5,500 pass-blocking reps. He was also flagged for holding just nine times over his entire career, playing with excellent technique and discipline. Few, if any, other tackles can rival such preposterous numbers in 180 games played.

Shortly after he hung up his cleats in 2010, Jones was named to the NFL's 2000s All-Decade team and inducted to the Hall of Fame as a first-ballot selection in 2013. He's one of only three players in franchise history with his jersey number retired and one of 14 members of the Ring of Honor.

Immediately after Jones' departure, coinciding with the arrival of general manager John Schneider and coach Pete Carroll, the Seahawks once again kicked off a new era by tabbing their left tackle of the future. With the sixth overall pick in the 2010 NFL Draft, they selected Oklahoma State's Russell Okung, immediately bolstering their front line.

Throughout his six seasons with the franchise, Okung battled persistent injury issues, failing to play in all 16 regular season games a single time. When healthy, however, he proved instrumental to Seattle's rise to prominence, including earning a Pro Bowl selection while starting 15 games protecting a rookie starter in Wilson in 2012. He also started in both of the team's Super Bowl appearances in 2013 and 2014.

Arguably a top-10 tackle throughout his tenure with the Seahawks, while Okung may never have quite met expectations, he still proved to be a quality pick who played a vital role in their run to a Lombardi Trophy.

Zooming back to the present, Cross joins Seattle under similar circumstances to all three of the aforementioned tackles who were top-10 picks. In each instance, the team was in the midst of a change at quarterback and coming off a down season, ready to rebuild the foundation up front around their new left tackle. To an extent, he's viewed as a savior coming to town at one of the most important positions in football.

Whether fair or not, as Roberts, Jones, and Okung did before him, the Seahawks clearly anticipate Cross will win an immediate starting job over 2021 sixth-round pick Stone Forsythe after choosing not to re-sign Duane Brown or add any proven veterans at the position during free agency. If he's as special of a talent and person as the franchise believes he is, he should be able to handle such pressure and publicly, he has embraced those lofty expectations so far.

Since being drafted, Cross has hit the ground running, drawing praise from Carroll on multiple occasions during the team's rookie minicamp last weekend. Until the pads go on, however, it's anyone's guess how he will respond when facing NFL pass rushers. Coming from an Air Raid scheme where he never worked out of a three-point stance and rarely run blocked, there also will undoubtedly be growing pains acclimating to Seattle's pro-style, run-centric offense.

Keeping that in mind, both coaches and fans will need to keep their feet tapping on the brakes and be patient. Replacing Brown and following a long line of successful left tackles before him, Cross may need a bit more time before he begins unlocking his potential and can truly fill those gigantic shoes. But if the Seahawks play their cards right and allow him to develop at the right pace without ratcheting up the pressure too much, the sky will be the limit for him.