Richard Sherman (Stanford University)
People's Exhibit A: Rick Mirer. Seattle's franchise quarterback pick in the 1993 draft started his Seahawks career with a bang—setting NFL rookie records for passing yards and completions—and then ended it with countless misfires just three years later.
Thus, when analyzing the potential impact of the team's 2011 rookie class, it's important not to judge too early. Boom or bust, it will be at least two to three years before we know whether the Seahawks were draft-day winners or losers.
Here's a look at how each rookie will fit into the lineup in Year One.
James Carpenter, OL, Alabama (first round, 25th overall)
The Seahawks surprised a lot of people by taking Carpenter with their first pick instead of a quarterback or one of the more highly touted linemen, but it’s not as if he was a reach. Carpenter’s résumé is legit: All-SEC First Team, BCS national championship ring and anchoring the O-line that cleared Mark Ingram's path to the Heisman Trophy.
Carpenter has the size (6'4", 320), skill and versatility to play multiple positions on the line. He should be given every chance to start at right tackle his rookie year but could see a lot of snaps at either guard spot depending on what Seattle does in free agency regarding incumbent starting RT Sean Locklear.
John Moffitt, OL, Wisconsin (third round, 75th overall)
When you’re looking for a hog to stick in the trenches for the next eight to 10 years, can you really go wrong with a bearded 320-pounder from a Big Ten school?
Moffitt comes with the requisite smash-mouth skill set and ornery attitude you'd expect from a Badger, but he'll understandably need some time to gain experience in pass protection. The Seahawks want to focus more on running between the tackles next season, though, so the starting right guard spot is Moffitt's to lose.
K.J. Wright, LB, Mississippi State (fourth round, 99th overall)
Wright is exactly the kind of defensive player Pete Carroll would have pursued at USC: versatile, athletic, loves to hit and can wreak havoc all over the field. At 6'4", 250 pounds, Wright could see time at outside linebacker or defensive end as a speed rusher. Next season he’ll get his share of snaps as a backup and on special teams, and in a few years he may develop into a starter.
Kris Durham, WR, Georgia (fourth round, 107th overall)
I typically try to avoid unoriginal race-based comparisons—such as the NBA analysts you'll see this week who only compare Jimmer Fredette to Steve Nash, Mark Price or J.J. Redick—but Durham really does remind me of Ed McCaffrey: a tall (6'5"), rangy possession receiver with underrated speed and athleticism who isn't afraid to go across the middle. For his own health, I just hope Durham doesn't take as many head-rattling hits as McCaffrey endured in his career.
How will Durham contribute next season? There's no way to tell because you always have to take a wait-and-see approach with receivers. On paper, Durham may look like a third or fourth option at best, but if he develops a noticeable chemistry with Seattle's quarterback, he'll move up the depth chart. (For what it's worth, Durham and Charlie Whitehurst have been workout partners this offseason.) Remember, Steve Largent was only a third or fourth option on paper too.
Richard Sherman, CB, Stanford (fifth round, 154th overall)
Seattle’s defense was aging, injury-prone and mostly ineffective last season, and nowhere was that reflected more than in the defensive backfield. Sherman represents the movement to get younger, tougher and more dangerous. He's a big corner (6'2", 195) with good hands (he played receiver his first three years at Stanford) who will challenge the Seahawks’ veterans for a starting spot.
Who will be Seattle's biggest impact rookie?
Mark LeGree, S, Appalachian State (fifth round, 156th overall)
This franchise has a good history with small-school safeties—Eugene Robinson came to the Seahawks from Colgate—but there’s a reason or two that LeGree slipped through the cracks of big-school recruiting. Though he did run a good 40-yard dash time at this year's NFL combine (4.5 seconds), he wasn't thought to have elite speed or athleticism but makes up for it with polished technique and good instincts, as evidenced by his 22 career interceptions. LeGree is also a willing hitter.
Earl Thomas is locked in as the Seahawks' free safety for the foreseeable future, so barring injury or a shift to strong safety, LeGree will see most of his playing time on special teams next season.
Byron Maxwell, CB, Clemson (sixth round, 173rd overall)
Adjusting to a backup role won’t be tough for Maxwell, who was only a starter for one year in college. Even if the Seahawks show Marcus Trufant and Kelly Jennings the door, Maxwell would still have to beat out Sherman, second-year pro Walter Thurmond, third-year pro Roy Lewis and new acquisition Brandon Browner, who has been one of the best corners in the Canadian Football League for the past five years. Maxwell will get a look in nickel and dime packages, as well as on special teams.
Lazarius Levingston, DL, LSU (seventh round, 205th overall)
Another versatile defender who can play multiple positions for a team that has been racked by injuries in recent years. Levingston projects best as a run-stuffing defensive end, but he can also play tackle. He’ll get some snaps as a backup and on special teams.
Malcolm Smith, LB, USC (seventh round, 242nd overall)
Smith is solid in pass coverage and has a knack for making big plays—he scored two TDs on interceptions at USC, and scored once on a fumble return—but he's far from a polished product. Athletic and full of potential, he'll have to make the Seahawks roster first and then get noticed as a special-teamer.