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The Seattle Seahawks will report to training camp next Tuesday, with the first on field activities set for a week from Wednesday, and there are several interesting questions for the team heading into the season. One interesting set of questions the team will look to address during training camp is what to make of the 2018 draft class for the squad. Fans like to point out that it takes at least three full seasons to grade a draft class, and with the 2018 group having completed their third season in 2020, the eve of their fourth camp seems a fair time to evaluate the class.
So, turning to the 2018 draft class, which members of the group could be long-term contributors for the Hawks as these players enter the final season of their rookie contracts?
1.27 RB Rashaad Penny
3.79 DE Rasheem Green
4.120 TE Will Dissly
5.141 LB Shaquem Griffin
5.146 CB Tre Flowers
5.149 P Michael Dickson
5.168 T Jamarco Jones
6.186 DE Jacob Martin
7.220 QB Alex McGough
The easiest thing to do is to remove from consideration the players who are no longer on the roster, which eliminates Griffin and Martin. Griffin remains unsigned as a free agent after having been non-tendered as a restricted free agent in the spring, while Martin was sent to the Houston Texans in the Jadeveon Clowney trade in 2019.
From there, working backwards from latest to earliest pick, McGough is first on the list. McGough has bounced around in recent seasons, spending time with the Texans and Jacksonville Jaguars in addition to the Seahawks. His time with Houston in Bill O’Brien’s offense could give him a leg up in the competition as practice squad quarterback behind Geno Smith, given that O’Brien came from the New England Patriots where Shane Waldron also coached earlier in his career. That said, Danny Etling also spent a good deal of time with the Pats, so it might not give McGough that much of an advantage. If, however, the Seahawks decide to keep a pair of quarterbacks on the practice squad as a COVID protocol, both Etling and McGough could easily stick around this season, but what the future holds for a practice squad quarterback is anybody’s guess.
Up next is Jones. Many hoped that Jones would jump right in and wrestle the right tackle spot away from Germain Ifedi as a rookie in 2018, however, that never came to pass. A preseason injury landed Jones on injured reserve as a rookie, before he finally earned playing time at guard during his second season in 2019 following injuries to both D.J. Fluker and Ethan Pocic. Jones has started five games during his career, with one start at each of left tackle and right tackle. The Hawks have their starting five on the offensive line set for 2021, so Jones figures to be in the conversation when it comes to filling out depth for the group.
Jones’ versatility and ability to fill in at both guard and tackle has helped keep him in the roster in the past, but depending on where he falls in relation to both Cedric Ogbuehi and Stone Forsythe at tackle, as well as Jordan Simmons, Phil Haynes and Kyle Fuller at guard, he might have a tough time sticking around. These will be battles to pay close attention to during the preseason matchups.
Moving up the list, the next name is Michael Dickson, who the team signed to a four year contract extension earlier this offseason. Dickson is, without a doubt, the most successful of the 2018 draftees in terms of on field performance, and there doesn’t seem to be any reason to anticipate a change in what he is able to do on the field going forward.
The member of the 2018 class chosen three picks before Dickson is one who will likely ignite a fun response from many Seahawks fans, Tre Flowers. Flowers is second among the 2018 draft class in games played (42, behind Dickson’s 48), but his 37 starts is as many as the entire rest of the draft class combined (Dissly 22, Green 8, Jones 5, Griffin 1 and Martin 1 for the Texans). In addition, his 2,459 defensive snaps played is more than double the number of snaps played by the member of the class with the second highest total (Green 1,112). In short, many fans are ready to see the team move on from Flowers, and he’ll have his work cut out for him in a crowded competition at cornerback during training camp.
The next player, Dissly, has played well and contributed when healthy, however, when healthy has been a significant caveat to this point in his career. He finally stayed healthy and played a full 16 games in 2020 after the Seahawks had gone out and spent $7M to add Greg Olsen at the starting tight end. The fact that Dissly stayed healthy for the 2020 campaign didn’t stop the Seahawks front office from going out and spending $6M to add Gerald Everett, presumably as the starting tight end for 2021. That calls into question what the team feels it has in Dissly, or if it’s possible that new offensive coordinator Shane Waldron feels that he may not be a good fit for the system Seattle will run going forward.
A converted defensive lineman Dissly doesn’t bring the type of athleticism that has been common among tight ends for the Los Angeles Rams in recent seasons. If that is indeed the case, it makes it easy to see how 2021 could be Dissly’s final season in Seattle if the team looks to utilize tight ends who are a better fit for their system.
Thus the discussion has now arrived at Green. Green has flashed at times, and, as noted, his 1,112 snaps are the second most among the draft class. That said, he has started just eight games so far during his career, and the neck injury he suffered in 2020 limited him to just 10 games. While it would not be a surprise to see a player who was just 20 years old when he was drafted have a breakout fourth season, the team signed multiple free agents to compete at defensive end during the season, including Kerry Hyder Jr, Carlos Dunlap, Aldon Smith and Benson Mayowa. Add in that both LJ. Collier and Alton Robinson at the position who were drafted in later seasons and have more years of team control left, and Green’s spot on the roster going forward could easily be questioned.
That finally brings things to the Day 1 pick that shocked many Seahawks fans, Penny. Penny has been stuck behind Chris Carson for the duration of his career, and it seems unlikely the Seahawks handed Carson $5.5M guaranteed because they were optimistic about Penny’s 2021 prospects. The key, of course, will be how Penny recovers from the follow up operation on his 2019 knee injury, a procedure which kept him out of offseason activities and could put him behind the eight ball when it comes to learning the team’s new offensive system. Given that the Hawks spent moderate money in free agency to sign a running back with Penny already under contract for this season, it would seem a stellar campaign might be needed in order for the team to consider bringing him back in the future.
Putting that all together, of the nine players the Seahawks selected in the 2018 NFL Draft, it appears that at this point only one, Dickson, has secured his spot on the roster past this season. In addition, with the competitions that have been set up at running back, defensive end, cornerback and along the offensive line, it might not be a surprise for the team to have only a couple of members of the draft class with the team this season.