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SEATTLE — Editor’s note: The above video featuring an exclusive KING 5 interview with Kenneth Walker III originally aired May 31. This story is part of KING 5’s Seahawks season preview series.
After selecting just three prospects in the 2021 National Football League (NFL) Draft, the Seattle Seahawks tripled that in the most recent draft.
Not all nine of the rookies selected will see much on-field action and not even all of them are locks to make the team’s final 53-man regular-season roster.
However, some of the first-year players will be starters and critical contributors for a Seahawks team with a lot of new faces at important positions.
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Let’s break down how each of these nine rookies will factor into the Seahawks’ plans this season, with the team’s first preseason game scheduled for Saturday, Aug. 13.
Fans can watch that matchup with the Pittsburgh Steelers and all of the Seahawks’ preseason games locally on KING 5.
The Seahawks’ first-round selection in 2022, Cross has been getting first-team reps at left tackle throughout the early part of training camp.
Cross comes from a pass-heavy scheme under former Washington State head coach Mike Leach at Mississippi State but will end up handling much more run-blocking assignments in a Seahawks offense still attempting to figure out the quarterback position.
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Veteran offensive lineman Gabe Jackson had high praise for Cross, telling reporters the rookie has “sweet feet” (h/t Alyssa Charlston).
While there has been shuffling at other positions along the offensive line in training camp, Cross has been the one stalwart at left tackle.
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The Seahawks clearly hope Cross can become the long-term answer on the blindside. Barring injury, he should start 17 out of 17 regular-season games for Seattle.
Mafe fills another vital need for the Seahawks going into 2022, as the team’s defense needs a hungry young player who can get after opposing quarterbacks and wreak havoc in the backfield.
One of the 2022 draft’s most athletic prospects, Mafe was a high jumper in high school and also ran an impressive 4.57 40-yard dash at the NFL Scouting Combine, wowing the talent evaluators on hand in Indianapolis.
He already has drawn some comparisons to former Seahawks star pass-rusher Cliff Avril. Mafe’s elite athleticism will be key in slowing down divisional opponents with fast quarterbacks like Kyler Murray of the Arizona Cardinals and Trey Lance of the San Francisco 49ers.
Expect to see Mafe on the field plenty this season and at least one or two significant impact plays from the rookie.
Despite being the third selection the Seahawks made in the draft, Walker was the most-talked-about pick the organization made in the 2022 draft.
One of the nation’s top collegiate running backs in 2021, Walker enters a situation in Seattle rife with opportunity. Chris Carson’s injury retirement opened a door at the top of the depth chart to begin training camp, and Walker will be competing right alongside Rashaad Penny to seize that starting spot.
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Walker already is proving his mettle in the receiving game as well, catching a pair of red-zone touchdowns on the fourth day of training camp, one each from quarterbacks Drew Lock and Geno Smith.
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He might not be the starter to begin the regular season due to Penny’s experience, but Walker will be a frequent sight in the Seahawks’ huddle, and could end up as the team’s leading rusher by season’s end.
A local product coming out of Washington state and Archbishop Murphy High School in Everett, Lucas was the Seahawks’ second offensive tackle selected in the draft.
A less heralded talent, Lucas has seen limited reps with the first team so far in training camp and likely will be a reserve tackle when the regular season gets underway. Like Cross, Lucas played in a pass-heavy college scheme and will need to adjust to a more prevalent rushing offense.
Stone Forsythe and Jake Curham have more experience than Lucas, but the rookie has the potential to earn the right tackle spot coming out of camp.
The most likely scenario is that Lucas will see sporadic playing time and the Seahawks will be shifting players in and out at the right tackle spot throughout the season.
Bryant has been getting most of his snaps with the second team during training camp but is making a strong impression early on.
The Cincinnati product has had his hands on the ball seemingly every day of training camp so far and has been especially stingy against the deep ball.
One of his best highlights came the fourth day when he leaped to knock the ball away from 6-foot-7 tight end Colby Parkinson in the end zone, drawing a huge celebration from his defensive teammates.
Bryant remains behind Sidney Jones on the depth chart, but if his strong performances at practice carry over into the preseason and regular season, the rookie could become a major contributor to the Seahawks secondary.
Woolen already has earned the nickname “Avatar” from his new teammates due to his remarkable athleticism and size for the cornerback position. At 6-foot-4, Woolen ran a 4.26 40-yard dash at the Scouting Combine, the second-fastest time of any player at the event.
The University of Texas, San Antonio product should get ample opportunity to prove he has the skills to match his physical characteristics. Woolen is another player who could make a significant impact later in the season if injuries befall the secondary.
Woolen might not see a ton of action early on, but he seems like a sleeper candidate to make some huge plays for the Seahawks this season.
The Ohio State product began training camp on the physically unable to perform list due to a hip issue but returned to action on Aug. 1.
Smith saw plenty of action against NFL talent during his time with the Buckeyes, but will likely take some time adjusting to an outside linebacker role in the Seahawks’ new 3-4 scheme under defensive coordinator Clint Hurtt.
He is another rookie who will need to prove himself in preseason games, so Smith could be a player who bounces between the practice squad and the active roster to begin the season.
The Seahawks used their final two draft choices on wide receivers and both aren’t super likely to crack the Week 1 53-man roster.
Melton was limited by a hamstring issue during offseason training activities and will need to perform well on special teams to find his way onto the roster at some point this season for the Seahawks.
A two-time team captain in college, Melton has leadership qualities that should serve him well as he battles a crowded group of wide receivers for a roster spot. However, it’s hard to imagine Melton making any kind of impact early on in his first NFL season.
Young has impressed more than Melton so far in training camp and even drew a promising comparison from Seahawks coach Pete Carroll to Ricardo Lockette, who was a special teams standout and reserve wide receiver on the Super Bowl teams of the past decade.
Lock praised Young for his understanding of the playbook and feel for the game while running with the second-team offense.
Young missed time this offseason with a hamstring issue and will need to prove himself in the Seahawks’ three preseason games. That being said, given the praise from Carroll and Lock, don’t be surprised if Young finds his way onto the roster at some point early in the season and makes an impact.
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