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Seattle Seahawks

Seahawks pre-draft position overview: No need to add much to current WR group

Seattle Seahawks wide receiver Tyler Lockett (16) reaches out for a back corner reception with Pittsburgh Steelers cornerback Levi Wallace trailing during a 2023 game at Lumen Field in Seattle.   (Kevin Clark/Seattle Times)
By Bob Condotta Seattle Times

Few teams in the NFL appear as set at the receiver position as the Seahawks do entering the 2024 season.

Seattle has one of the most proven vets in the league in Tyler Lockett, now entering his 10th season; one of the more dynamic receivers in the league and smack in his prime at age 26 in DK Metcalf; and a first-round pick from a year ago who showed a flair for the big play and the potential to eventually reach his lofty draft status in Jaxon Smith-Njigba.

So, the Seahawks have no reason to draft a receiver, right?

Well, as is often the case in the NFL, contractual matters could come into play.

They reworked Lockett’s contract earlier this year, which assured he will be on the roster in 2024.

But it also may have only put his future more in question. He’ll turn 32 in September, and he has no guaranteed money for 2025 and what is now a $30.8 million salary cap hit. His contract includes a roster bonus of $5.3 million due March 18, which is when it will likely be known one way or the other if Lockett will be around in 2025.

Metcalf also has just one year left on his contract after this season, and also has no guaranteed money in 2025, when his cap hit balloons to $29.5 million.

Thinking of the future was a big reason why Seattle took Smith-Njigba in the first round last year at 20th overall.

But there’s no other receiver on the roster who yet projects as a surefire third receiver down the road.

All of which is why Seattle could be on the market for a younger receiver somewhere in the draft this year to potentially fill that void.

As we continue our pre-draft preview of Seattle’s position groups, let’s look further at the wide receiver position.

Projected depth chart

Starters: DK Metcalf, Tyler Lockett, Jaxon Smith-Njigba. The Seahawks have a set top three entering the season and will hope that Smith-Njigba can take a step forward with a little more game-to-game consistency in year two.

Backups: Jake Bobo, Dee Eskridge, Dareke Young, Laviska Shenault Jr., Easop Winston Jr., Cody White. Their only offseason addition was former second-round pick Shenault. He figures to battle with Eskridge, Bobo and maybe Young for what might only be two other spots on the 53-man roster. The Seahawks usually keep two or three WRs on the practice squad so almost all of those listed could stay with the team in some capacity. Eskridge, Shenault and Winston will also be counted on to help with the new kickoff return.

Draft need, 1-10: 4.5.

Schneider draft history

Receivers drafted (18, listed by draft order): Jaxon Smith-Njigba (20th overall pick, 2023); Paul Richardson (45, 2014); Dee Eskridge (56, 2021); Golden Tate (60, 2010); DK Metcalf (64, 2019); Tyler Lockett (69, 2015); Amara Darboh (106, 2017); Kris Durham (107, 2011); Gary Jennings (120, 2019); Chris Harper (123, 2013); Kevin Norwood (123, 2014); Freddie Swain (214, 2022); David Moore (226, 2017); Bo Melton (229, 2022); Dareke Young (233, 2022), John Ursua (239, 2019), Kenny Lawler (243, 2016); Stephen Sullivan (251, 2020).

Best pick: The draft-day trades up to get Metcalf and Lockett will each go down as two of the better moves in franchise history. None of the four players taken with picks Seattle gave up to get Lockett played past the 2017 season.

One regret: For a while, one of the bigger draft themes of the John Schneider/Pete Carroll era was what seemed like a somewhat inexplicable curse picking receivers in the third and fourth rounds – the likes of Darboh, Jennings, Harper and Norwood all arrived with much fanfare and did little before quickly washing out of the NFL. But the reach for Eskridge with what was Seattle’s only pick in the first three rounds of the 2021 draft – at 56 overall – for now takes the disappointment cake when it comes to Seattle drafting receivers over the last 15 years. And while it’s easy to second-guess later, among WRs taken after Eskridge who have turned into productive players are Detroit’s Amon-Ra St. Brown (112), Houston’s Nico Collins (89) and Josh Palmer of the Chargers (77). The good news is there is still an opportunity for Eskridge to change that narrative.

Draft overview

Known visitors: Seattle has had only one receiver reportedly in for a private visit, but with the visits now over there may have been some players at all positions who visited without it being reported.

But the one receiver who was reported by multiple outlets is Malachi Corley of Western Kentucky. The 5-foot-11, 215-pounder is known for his yards-after-catch prowess. Here is Pro Football Focus’ scouting report of Corley: “He is pretty raw in the nuances of playing receiver – release footwork, route tree and how to get off contact. Nonetheless, those are all things he can learn. If he does, he is a true weapon with the ball in his hands.”

Local ties: If only the old territorial draft still existed in the NFL – well, at this position, anyway – and Seattle could just inherit the UW trio of receivers who all may go by the end of the second day. Rome Odunze is generally considered likely to be the third receiver taken and likely in the top 10 and won’t be available for Seattle.

Ja’Lynn Polk and Jalen McMillan might be available for Seattle at pick 81, though Polk in particular has been receiving some significant buzz as the draft draws nearer.

The 6-2, 204-pound Polk is 48th on Pro Football Focus’ big board. PFF wrote of Polk: “Polk is a limited route runner, but he is also one of the best “go up and get it’ contested catch receivers in this class (and that is really saying something). His knack for making big plays should always get him on an NFL roster in some capacity.”

The 6-1, 192-pound McMillan is 85th on PFF’s Big Board. PFF wrote of McMillan: “McMillan was someone Washington continued to prioritize in their passing attack, even with players like Rome Odunze and Ja’Lynn Polk on the roster. His nuances give him a high floor as a WR2/3.”

Others to watch: In what is regarded as an especially strong and deep class of receivers, there are plenty that some of the new Seahawks coaches know well either through coaching them or coaching against them.

A few who fit that category who are generally considered as likely to go in the first three rounds include Adonai Mitchell and Xavier Worthy of Texas, Troy Franklin of Oregon, Roman Wilson and Cornelius Johnson of Michigan and Jermaine Burton of Alabama.

The 5-11, 186-pound Wilson was something of a late-bloomer at Michigan but led the Wolverines with 12 receiving TDs in 2023 and had three receptions for 54 yards in the national title game win over UW.

Johnson listed at 6-3, 211, is a different style receiver than Wilson and may not go as early. He had 47 catches for 604 yards last year for the Wolverines, and three for 35 in the national title game.

Other options include two with intriguing links – USC’s Brendan Rice, the son of Jerry (a former Seahawk along with everything else he accomplished, in case you’ve forgotten), and Rice’s Luke McCaffrey, the brother of Christian. His offensive coordinator at Rice was former UW standout Marques Tuiasosopo.

The final analysis: Seattle wouldn’t seem likely to use its first pick at 16 on a receiver. But somewhere else throughout the draft would make sense given the perceived strength of the group that is available and Seattle’s potential long-term needs.