ESPN’s positional rankings don’t look good for the Seahawks

If ESPN had published their positional rankings for all 32 NFL teams before the preseason started or right after the first preseason games, the optimist in me would have been screaming at my monitor telling Mike Clay why he was wrong about our beloved Seattle Seahawks. After watching the putrid display against the Chicago Bears on Thursday night, not so much.

Note: The ESPN article is behind the ESPN+ paywall.

Let’s start where the ESPN+ piece ends – with the overall rankings.

Seattle is #29.

Amusingly, that’s one spot ahead of the team that embarrassed them in their only home preseason game of the year. The Atlanta Falcons are #31; the Houston Texans are #32.

The Tampa Bay Buccaneers, Los Angeles Chargers, and Buffalo Bills sit atop the rankings.

Our NFC West counterparts are ranked 7th (FTRs), 15th (SF), and 16th (AZ); so, yeah, they’re all in the top half of the league (according to ESPN) and the Seahawks are NOT (according to, well, almost everyone).

The obvious answer to the question of why Seattle is ranked so poorly is Quarterback. ESPN has Seattle ranked dead last at the position. And, honestly, it’s hard to argue that they’re wrong.

Here is ESPN’s write-up on Seattle’s quarterback situation:

Russell Wilson is out and some combination of Geno Smith and Drew Lock is in at quarterback for the rebuilding Seahawks. Seattle is expressing confidence in Lock’s abilities, but it’s hard to expect much after the 2019 second-round pick lost the Denver starting job before struggling mightily in place of Teddy Bridgewater down the stretch last season. Smith, 31, was respectable in place of an injured Wilson in 2021, but he is best served as a backup — he has attempted 196 passes over the past seven seasons.

Anyone disagree?

I don’t.

It would, however, be interesting to see where the rankings land if Drew’s potential is un-Lock-ed by Seattle’s coaching staff. Or if Seattle pulls the trigger on a trade for a certain former Cougar. Or if the San Francisco 49ers release Jimmy G. and Seattle offers him a shot lead them to the promised land stick it to his former team twice a year.

But if Seattle goes through the entire season with “some combination of Geno Smith and Drew Lock”. . . yeah, ranking them dead last at the position seems appropriate.

What about the other “skill positions”?

According to ESPN, DK Metcalf and Tyler Lockett lead the league’s 7th-best wide receiver corps; Noah Fant and Will Disley headline the league’s 8th-best group of tight ends; and Seattle’s running back room is ranked …

Twenty-seventh.

I’m guessing that ESPN is discounting Rashaad Penny’s performance during the latter part of the 2021 season, hasn’t bought into the hype surrounding Kenneth Walker III, and doesn’t believe that the Travis Homer we’ve seen during the preseason will translate when the games start counting for real.

Personally, I think they’re wrong – about all 3 groups.

Their error on the running backs should be obvious to anyone who follows the Seahawks so I won’t drone on too much about how Penny is one of the best backs in the league when he’s healthy and gets “enough” touches to find his rhythm.

Kenneth Walker III is, I believe, better than Penny. If you doubt that, Kenneth Arthur’s 85-part Ken Walker series may help change your mind.

And Travis Homer? He’s the guy who took a direct snap on a punt last year and turned it into a 73-yard touchdown.

And who could forget this:

Granted, both of those touchdowns came on special teams, but Homer runs away from people in the open field and he’s been killing it in the preseason so far this year.

Bottom line: Ranking the Seahawks’ running backs 27th is just plain WRONG.

As mentioned, I think the rankings for the Wide Receivers and Tight Ends are off as well. That said, I won’t argue (too much) about the rankings for either group.

I think that #7 is perhaps a bit too high for the wideouts given that there’s a chasm of almost biblical proportions behind DK. and NoE.

Conversely, I think that 8th is perhaps a bit too low for the tight ends given that I think both Fant and Dissly are going to have career highs in targets and yards this year.

Note: Disley’s career highs are 29 targets (2020) and 262 yards (2019). Fant’s bar is quite a bit higher as he had 673 yards on 93 targets two years ago and backed that up with 670 yards on 90 targets in 2021.

Wrapping things up on the offensive side of the ball, ESPN projects that the Seahawks’ O-line will be the 28th-best line in the league (aka the 5th-worst). Believe it or not, this is actually an improvement from where ESPN ranked them a mere 2 weeks ago (30th overall). As Thursday’s game showed, with Charles Cross getting 4 false start penalties (and a holding penalty), there are going to be some growing pains with Seattle’s new tackle(s). But give the line some time and they should be fine. (fingers crossed)

Moving to the other side of the ball, the rankings get … interesting.

Interior Defensive Line

All four NFC West teams are in the top half of the league with the Rams leading the way at #1 basically on the strength of Aaron Donald alone.

Has Aaron Donald retired? No. Is Donald still on the Rams’ roster? Yes. OK, then the Rams have an elite defensive line.

San Francisco is ranked #7. Seattle is #15. Arizona is #16.

Edge Rushers

The 49ers are the highest-ranked NFC West team at #6 overall. The drop off from there is severe. The Rams are #24, the Cardinals are #25, and the Seahawks are … well, let’s just say that ESPN doesn’t have a whole lot of faith in Darrell Taylor, Uchenna Nwosu, Boye Mafe, and Alton Robinson. Something tells me that ranking Seattle’s edge rushers at #31 is going to be very, very, VERY wrong.

Off-Ball Linebackers

Seattle’s off-ball linebackers come in at #27. Just like the running backs did. But with a lot less arguing from me.

Yes, I think it’s too low, but we “lost” Bobby Wagner, we didn’t bring back KJ Wright (other than for a ceremonial one-day contract), and Cody Barton hasn’t yet inspired much confidence.

Jordyn Brooks is a stud and Joel Iyiegbuniwe has looked good during the preseason, but it’s not like our off-ball linebackers measure up to the 9ers (#1), the Rams (#5), or even the Cardinals (#17). 27th is low, but not overly so.

Cornerbacks

If ESPN is to be believed, opposing teams are going to have a whole lot of success throwing the ball against the NFC West this year. Arizona’s cornerbacks are ranked dead last. Seattle’s cornerbacks are one spot ahead of them. San Francisco’s CBs are ranked 18th and the Rams’ CBs are ranked 13th. Admittedly, I’m biased, but I think ESPN is underestimating all of these groups, especially Seattle’s. (Bryant and Woolen are going to be stars!)

Safeties

Question: What does employing the league’s highest-paid group of safeties earn the Seahawks rankings-wise?

Answer: Their highest positional ranking on the defensive side of the ball; #9 overall.

That’s right, having the league’s 3rd-highest-paid safety (Adams, $17.5M APY) and the league’s 10th-highest-paid safety (Diggs, $13M APY) netted the Seahawks a top-10 ranking. Not a Top-3 or Top-5, but #9 ain’t nothing to sneeze at.

I mean, I guess.

It could be worse, right? Arizona is ranked #11 while SF and LAR go back-to-back at numbers 22 and 23, respectively.

At least we’re not Houston.

Summary

Seattle’s offensive position groups are ranked #7, #8, #27, #28, and #32 (WRs, TEs, RBs, OL, and QB, respectively) while Seattle’s defensive position groups are ranked #9, #15, #27 , #31, and #31 (S, IDL, LB, EDGE, CB, respectively).

Add that all up and ESPN says it totals 29.

I think they’re wrong. Especially about the defense. And the running backs.

GO HAWKS!

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