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2021 Team Report: Seattle Seahawks

Last updated: Mon, May 24

Offensive Philosophy

Seattle coach Pete Carroll is old-school. He believes in running the ball, playing great defense, and winning slow-paced, low-scoring games. That worked great when he had a great running game and a great defense, but the Seahawks haven't had that since 2016. Instead, for the past four years the team has relied on quarterback Russell Wilson working magic in the small fraction of plays he was given. At the beginning of 2020, it looked like Carroll was finally going to "let Russ cook" and hand over the offense to him; Wilson attempted 297 pass attempts in his first 8 games and was an MVP front-runner. His pace over the first half of the season would pro-rate to 5082 yards and 56 passing touchdowns over a full season. But the offense dialed back again in the second half, Wilson's attempts fell to 261, and his second-half pace would only result in 3342 yards and 24 touchdowns over a full season. Wilson is clearly growing impatient with the team's refusal to fully commit to him and even talked about wanting to be traded over the offseason. The big question of 2021 is whose vision for the offense will finally win out.

Quarterbacks

Starter: Russell Wilson
Backup(s): Geno Smith, Alex McGough

Starting QB: Wilson finished as a top-5 fantasy quarterback for the fourth time in the past six seasons in 2020. While his year-end stat line looks great on paper, it wasn't always a smooth ride for fantasy managers. No quarterback topped Wilson's 231.5 fantasy points from Weeks 1-8, but he performed as a replacement-level asset in the second half (and worse during the fantasy playoffs). Wilson's slog to the finish line can be pinned, at least in part, on Seattle's coaching staff. As the team's defense rounded into familiar form, so did their reliance on conservative offensive game plans. Offensive coordinator Brian Schottenheimer was jettisoned in favor of novice play-caller, Shane Waldron, but head coach Pete Carroll's stated desire to run the ball more in 2021 doesn't inspire confidence this is the year Wilson will be unleashed from wire to wire. Unless you believe an offseason of public trade rumors have caused Carroll to reconsider his undying commitment to the run, Wilson should be viewed as a second-tier starter in most fantasy formats.

Backup QB: Seattle is in big trouble if anything happens to Wilson. Smith will enter his third season as the Seahawks backup, having thrown a total of five passes during his tenure. At this point, it feels safe to say Smith, the owner of a career 58% completion rate and 29:36 touchdown to interception ratio, would be overmatched if thrust into a starting role. The odds of McGough contributing in the event of an injury to Wilson are slim to none. The former seventh-round pick out of Florida International has yet to play an NFL snap and was recently investigated for assault stemming from a bar fight in March.

Running Backs

Starter: Chris Carson
Backup(s): Rashaad Penny, Travis Homer, Deejay Dallas, Alex Collins
Fullback(s):

Starting RB: The Seahawks re-signed Carson to a two-year, $14.6 million contract extension, seemingly locking the three-year veteran into starting duties for the next two seasons. Carson was a top-20 running back on a per-game basis in PPR leagues last year, but his physical running style is cause for concern. In 2019, a hip fracture ended Carson's season early. Last year, he fought through an MCL sprain in Week 3 before a foot sprain caused him to miss four games. Fortunately for Carson, he's far from the most injury-prone back on the Seahawks roster. It remains to be seen whether Rashaad Penny - his main competition for backfield touches - can return to form after tearing up his knee two years ago.

Backup RBs: Penny came on towards the end of his sophomore season and appeared to be settling into a 1B role to Carson's 1A before a devastating ACL/meniscus injury stopped him in his tracks. Rehab kept Penny off the field until Week 15 in 2020, limiting him to totals of 38 offensive snaps and 11 rush attempts. He'll have to prove it during the preseason before we can consider him as anything more than a flyer in fantasy leagues, but Penny is reportedly back to full health. In theory, he's one of the more talented No. 2 running backs in the league playing behind a starter who lacks durability. Knee, wrist, and thumb injuries kept Homer from getting a chance in the absence of Carson and Penny last year. He'll fight for passing-down scraps with the versatile Dallas, who scored three touchdowns in limited playing time as a rookie last year.

Fullback:

Wide Receivers

Starters: DK Metcalf, Tyler Lockett, DWayne Eskridge (R)
Backups: Freddie Swain, Penny Hart, John Ursua, Aaron Fuller, Cody Thompson, Darvin Kidsy

Starting WRs: The improved route-running, preparation, and chemistry with Russell Wilson Metcalf displayed in his second season placed him on the precipice of superstardom. Metcalf finished 2020 as the cumulative WR6 in PPR leagues, trailing only Davante Adams and Tyreek Hill in weekly top-12 finishes at the wide receiver position. While it's possible (if not probable) Metcalf continues his climb to the top of the fantasy wide receiver ranks, he'll have to do it with Tyler Lockett presumably locked into at least 120 targets. Lockett joined Metcalf with over 1,000 yards and double-digit touchdowns last season, marking his third consecutive year with at least 965 yards and eight touchdowns. The Seahawks signed Lockett to a four-year, $69 million extension in March ($32 million guaranteed). With Metcalf and Lockett expected to account for approximately half of the team's total targets, the rest of Seattle's pass-catchers are fighting for scraps. That includes the No. 56 overall pick in this year's draft, Eskridge, a sprinter who profiles as a one-to-one replacement (with upside) for last year's WR3, Phillip Dorsett.

Backup WRs: Seattle is terribly thin at wide receiver behind their starters. Swain, last year's sixth-round pick out of Florida, had a nondescript rookie season and is best suited for the slot, where Lockett traditionally dominates snaps. Dorsett and David Moore left the team during free agency and Josh Gordon seems unlikely to ever get another chance in the NFL. It leaves nothing but the 5'9", 178-pound Ursua, who didn't play a regular season snap in 2020, and a bunch of guys on futures contracts as depth.

Tight Ends

Starters: Gerald Everett
Backups: Will Dissly, Colby Parkinson, Luke Willson, Tyler Mabry

It's flown below the radar, but Everett signing with the Seahawks has a chance to be impactful from a fantasy perspective. Everett has always possessed the size, speed, hands, and run-after-the-catch skills to cause mismatches for opposing defenses, but we only caught occasional glimpses of his ability in LA's crowded offense. In Seattle, he'll enjoy a massive quarterback upgrade, have room to roam the seam while defenses try to stop DK Metcalf and Tyler Lockett downfield, and he's familiar with the offense Shane Waldron wants to run from their time together with the Rams. Commanding targets while playing alongside Metcalf and Lockett caps his ceiling in back-end TE1 territory, but don't be surprised when Everett provides us with a handful of high-end box scores. Everett's main competition for snaps and targets should come from Dissly, whose most impressive feat in 2020 was appearing in 16 games after rupturing his patellar tendon and tearing his Achilles in 2018 and 2019, respectively. The Seahawks should be able to get a better look at last year's fourth-round pick, Parkinson, who rarely played as a rookie and started the season injured. In a best-case scenario, Parkinson's massive frame (6'7", 252 lbs.) could make him a preferred target of Wilson in the red zone.

Place Kicker

Jason Myers: Myers wasn't a fantasy relevant kicker last year, but through no fault of his own. He hit all 24 field goal attempts, including 13 from 40-49 yards and 2 from 50+, but he did miss four of his 53 extra point attempts. Myers isn't being drafted in most leagues because it's hard to project his opportunity growing after the Seahawks only gave him 28 field goal attempts in 2019. He is still an excellent bye/injury kicker and if the Seahawks get into more high-scoring games, he could crack the top 10-12.

Kick and Punt Returners

Kick Returners: Freddie Swain, Rashaad Penny, Tyler Lockett

Tyler Lockett is by far the most experienced kickoff returner on the roster, but after years of talking about taking him off special teams, the Seahawks finally followed through. Freddie Swain is the returning player who saw the most action in 2020, though Rashaad Penny was actually the most prolific college returner entering the league since Lockett himself.

Punt Returners: D.J. Reed, Tyler Lockett

D.J. Reed is the top incumbent punt returner, but Tyler Lockett is the surest-handed returner in the NFL; no player in the league has been less likely to fumble when fielding a return over the last decade. As a result, don't be surprised if Lockett fields punts in a few high-leverage situations throughout the year still.

Offensive Line

Projected Starters: LT Duane Brown, LG Damien Lewis, C Ethan Pocic, RG Gabe Jackson, RT Brandon Shell
Key Backups: OL Cedric Ogbuehi, OT Stone Forsythe [R], OL Jordan Simmons, OL Kyler Fuller

The Seahawks traded for Gabe Jackson this offseason. Jackson arrives from the Raiders, and matches well with another former Pro Bowler in left tackle Duane Brown. Right guard Damien Lewis was a mid-round draft steal and started all sixteen games as a rookie. Lewis could factor into the center conversation behind Ethan Pocic. Brandon Shell is a valuable asset at right tackle. They grade as average, but once Jackson settles into his role, this line has top-ten potential.

Team Defense

The Seahawks defense got better as the season went on, with big contributions from franchise safety Jamal Adams in the pass rush. They weren't a fantasy relevant D/ST until December, when they were consistently holding the opposition to 17 points or less and notching multiple sacks and takeaways. They released a starting defensive tackle (Jarran Reed) and lost their best corner (Shaq Griffin) and a stalwart linebacker (KJ Wright) this offseason, so don't expect big improvements from their modest 2020 production levels. Seattle doesn't have any gimmies on the early schedule, so look for the Seahawks as a matchup/streamer defense later in the season.

Defensive Line

Starters: LDE Kerry Hyder, NT Al Woods, DT Poona Ford, LEO Aldon Smith
Backups: LDE L.J. Collier, LDE Rasheem Green, DT Bryan Mone, LEO Carlos Dunlap, LEO Darrell Taylor, LEO Alton Robinson, DT Robert Nkemdiche, DE Benson Mayowa

Starting DL: After spending the previous year with division rival San Francisco and having a career resurgence, Kerry Hyder joined the Seahawks. His long-time idol was former Seattle end Micheal Bennett and his hope is to reprise that role with Seattle. Poona Ford re-signed a two-year deal with the team after becoming a restricted free agent this offseason. He previously played the 1-technique position, but is slated to perform 3-technique duties. He replaced Jarran Reed in this role, who was cut in the early offseason. The very experienced Al Woods will man the 1-technique position as the team's space-eater, with Ford and Bryan Mone also figuring into the defensive tackle rotation. Aldon Smith's signing before the Draft will take pressure off of second-year end Darrell Taylor and will give him another talented and experienced technician from whom to learn. Aldon Smith resurrected his career with Dallas last year and proved he has something left to contribute, even after not playing significantly since 2016. He was charged with second-degree battery this offseason, so his status is up in the air as long as that remains unresolved. Carlos Dunlap was brought back this offseason and should help ease the pain if Smith is unavailable.

Backup DL: Some have speculated that L.J. Collier's size makes him a better defensive tackle, but Seattle's linemen, especially their backup group, will be expected to make contributions from multiple spots along the front. The pass rush group is suddenly deep, with Carlos Dunlap re-signing, and Darrell Taylor and Alton Robinson developing behind him. The team can line up Collier, Hyder or 2018 third round pick Rasheem Green inside on passing downs. The team hopes that Nkemdiche can be their latest reclamation project. If he finds his game, he can be their starting three-tech defensive tackle as they don't have any naturals at the position and released Jarran Reed this offseason.

Linebackers

Starters: WLB Jordyn Brooks, SLB Cody Barton, MLB Bobby Wagner
Backups: LB Jon Rhattigan [R], OLB Ben Burr-Kirven

Starting LBs: Under Defensive Coordinator Ken Norton, Jr., the linebackers will often do unorthodox things, such as playing one position in the base defense and then another in the nickel defense. That is what makes it difficult to predict what will happen with K.J. Wright no longer on the roster. The best guess is that Brooks will move into a role that has him on the field the majority of the time with Barton playing just 30-40% of the snaps. Bobby Wagner is the only sure every-down player in the linebacker group.

Backup LBs: Though only a undrafted free agent, Jon Rhattigan is worth mentioning simply due to the lack of depth the Seahawks have at the linebacker position currently. His lacking change-of-direction skills and poor results in coverage are concerning, but he is a sure tackler. That skillset suggests a linebacker best suited for two-down work.

Defensive Backs

Starters: CB Tre Flowers, CB Akhello Witherspoon, CB DJ Reed, SS Jamal Adams, FS Quandre Diggs
Backups: CB Tre Brown [R], CB/FS Marquise Blair, CB Damarious Randall, CB Ugo Amadi, CB Pierre Desir, SS Ryan Neal

Starting DBs: Tre Flowers will have a chance to man his usual corner spot, but he will competition in Akhello Witherspoon and DJ Reed. Witherspoon came from the division rival 49ers and could replace Shaquille Griffin, who signed a big deal with Jacksonville. Also formerly of the 49ers, DJ Reed will be an excellent slot option that can play in the other two spots in a pinch. He could start outside and Marquise Blair and Ugo Amadi can also fit in the slot. Despite playing a career-low 12 games, Jamal Adams had a personal best 9.5 sacks last season. An extension for Adams is reportedly in the works. Quandre Diggs has been a nice addition to the team and led the Seahawks in interceptions last year with five. Like Adams, he will also be a free agent after this year, so it will be interesting to see if Seattle turns their attention to extending him after a deal with Adams is complete.

Backup DBs: If DJ Reed fails to hold him off in camp, rookie Tre Brown could start as the slot corner. One of the fiestiest corners in the class, Brown has no trouble mixing it up, even with bigger receivers who sometimes occupy the slot. Marquise Blair and Ugo Amadi will compete for the nickel corner role. Fortunately for Blair, he has experience playing the free safety role and so he is likely to stick on the roster even if he does not beat our Amadi. The team signed Damarius Randall as a corner, a role he has not played exclusively since his early career in Green Bay. Ryan Neal, like Blair, has also played corner in the past, but looks more natural at safety. He did a serviceable job of it last year filling in for the injured Jamal Adams, but is the only legitimate depth player on the roster at safety.