The Seattle Seahawks' 2018 draft class has already yielded at least two sure-fire starters, an All-Pro specialist and a handful of others who should be regular contributors if nothing else. That's a nice haul despite the underwhelming start for the first player chosen among that group, running back Rashaad Penny.
Grade: Above average
Best rookie: Michael Dickson led the league in net punting average until he saw two punts blocked in Week 17. He earned first-team All-Pro honors and became the first rookie punter to make the Pro Bowl since 1985. Among position players, Seattle's best rookie was Tre Flowers. He looked like he could be in for a redshirt rookie season given that he was learning a new position after playing safety in college, but he surprisingly won the starting right cornerback job (with the help of injuries to Byron Maxwell and Dontae Johnson) and made 15 starts. He didn't just have a good rookie season for a converted safety. He had a good rookie season, period. Flowers showed a Maxwell-esque knack for punching the ball out while forcing three fumbles. He looks like the next oversized Seahawks cornerback in the mold of Brandon Browner, only faster. Tight end Will Dissly was on his way to making a case himself for best rookie before his season ended with a knee injury in Week 4. He was playing starter snaps and had scored two touchdowns.
Most improved rookie: You could also give this one to Flowers, who predictably had a long day while making his NFL debut in the opener and by season's end was playing every bit as well if not better than Shaquill Griffin. Aside from Flowers, defensive end Jacob Martin was the most improved. Martin, a sixth-round pick, went from averaging six defensive snaps over the first five games to almost 18 the rest of the way while becoming a frequent member of Seattle's third-down pass rush. Martin's three sacks and two forced fumbles amounted to a bigger impact than the defensive end Seattle chose in the third round, Rasheem Green, who had one sack in 10 games.
Jury is still out on ...: Penny. It wasn't surprising that he didn't wrestle away the starting job from Chris Carson. The bigger disappointment with his rookie season was that he couldn't beat out Mike Davis for the No. 2 job. That left Penny averaging about 13 offensive snaps in his 14 games. He played fewer than 10 snaps in three of those games. It didn't help that he missed most of training camp with a broken finger and then two games in December with a knee injury. The good news: Penny's potential was evident even in his limited work. He ran for 108 yards and a touchdown on only 12 carries with Carson sidelined in Week 10. There was also the 30-yard cutback run against Green Bay and a 28-yarder against Dallas in the wild-card round that showed his burst. He finished the regular season with 419 yards on 85 attempts for a healthy 4.9-yard average. Carson might still be the first option next season, but expect Penny's role to increase with Davis headed toward free agency, where he figures to find more money elsewhere than what the Seahawks will be willing to pay him given their first-round investment in Penny.
Undrafted rookie evaluation: Poona Ford was the Big 12's defensive lineman of the year in his final season at Texas, but he went undrafted thanks in part to an atypical build for his position (he's 5-foot-11, with the long arms of a much taller man). He made the team out of training camp and played the third-most snaps of any non-starter along Seattle's defensive line. His finish to the regular season was particularly strong, with 12 tackles over the final five games. Nazair Jones' sophomore slump in 2018 is a reminder that players don't always pick up where they left off after a strong rookie season, but Ford has the potential to be a mainstay in Seattle's D-line rotation. "He's a baller," head coach Pete Carroll said of Ford. "It will be really tough to keep him down because he's just such a good football player. It means so much to him. He cares so much about it. It’s a great attribute of a guy. Hopefully that’s consistent throughout."