Last year, the Seahawks ranked in the top ten in passing yards. Seattle uses its power run game to set teams up for play-action. Doing this has created plenty of big plays for the Seahawks. But the men on the receiving end of these big plays were not guys many around the NFL would expect.
In 2016, the Seahawks had a season total of 4,422 receiving yards. 2,523 of those yards came from the top four receivers on the 2016 depth chart. Tight end Jimmy Graham came in second on the team with 923 yards.
Only two of the top four receivers for the Seahawks were drafted, Paul Richardson and Tyler Lockett. Richardson was a second-round pick in 2014 while Lockett was a third-round pick in 2015.
2017 NFL Free Agency: Taking a look at the best available players remaining in free agency
Remembering Chris Cornell: Reliving Soundgarden’s 2014 NFL Kickoff performance
NFL Past and Present: Comparing the current Miami offense to Dolphins’ offenses of seasons past
The other two receivers were undrafted free agents. Doug Baldwin, the Seahawks leading receiver with 1,128 receiving yards a year ago, and Jermaine Kearse.
Doug Baldwin continued to prove himself as the Seahawks number one receiver and Russell Wilson’s favorite target. Baldwin led the team with 125 targets, catching 94 of those passes. He has registered a 75% catch percentage and over 1,000 yards in both the 2015 and 2016 seasons.
Baldwin will be the number one receiver for the Seahawks again in 2017. He will continue to be the most targeted receiver by Wilson because of his reliable hands. With a better offensive line, Baldwin could also potentially see more throws down the field.
As the number two receiver last year, Kearse was expected to continue his development and be ready for a bigger role. But he was unable to deliver. In 2014 and 2015, Kearse had 537 receiving yards and 685 receiving yards. In 2016, he had only 510 yards.
This was due to his inability to make plays when the ball was thrown his way. Getting the third most targets on the team with 89, he only caught 41 of those throws. In the three seasons prior to 2016, he had an average catch percentage of 62.3%
With the inconsistent hands of Kearse, it is expected that his spot in the lineup is up for grabs. It will be a battle in training camp between him, Lockett and Richardson. If Kearse is unable to make his presence known during camp, he could see little time on the field in 2017.
Lockett will most likely stay in the slot in 2017. His size and athleticism are perfect for the position. Coming out of college, many expected Lockett to mainly be a skilled returner, which he has been. But Lockett has found a spot on the offense to make plays.
Since coming into the league in 2015, Lockett has 1,261 career receiving yards and seven receiving touchdowns. He has been able to get big chunks of yardage when he gets the ball as well, averaging 13.7 yards per reception.
With Kearse most likely losing targets, Lockett could see more balls thrown his way in the slot. It could be possible to see him on the outside every now and then as well, as the Seahawks will try and use his speed to get open deep down the field.
The man that came out of nowhere during the playoffs last year could benefit the most from the struggling Kearse. Paul Richardson burst onto the scene last year after making two unbelievable one handed grabs in the wild card round. He then led the team in receiving yards in the division round loss to the Falcons.
Stuck as the number four receiver during the season, Richardson used the playoffs to make his impact known. Before last year, Richardson had only one NFL catch for 40 yards. But seeing limited time last year, Richardson had 228 yards on 21 receptions.
With Lockett coming off a leg injury and Kearse struggling last year, Richardson should see an expanded role heading into the 2017 season. Possibly sliding into the number two outside receiver position. In a worst-case scenario, he has earned a shot to compete for the position during training camp.
No matter who wins that receiver position in camp, this is still an exciting group of young receivers. With another year of development and experience, each receiver could improve on last year and make this one of the best position groups on the team.