Can Coby Bryant start? Assessment of the Seattle Seahawks’ Rookie Impact of 2022 – NFL Nation

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RENTON, Wash. – Coby Bryant brings much more than a recognizable name to the Seattle Seahawks’ secondary.

The fourth-round cornerback from Cincinnati also brings a decorated college resume and, if you ask him, the best ball skills of any defender in this year’s draft. In his fourth season as a starter, Bryant won the 2021 Jim Thorpe Award, given to the nation’s best defensive back. He ended his college career with 10 interceptions and 45 passes defended in a total of 53 games.

The guy has played – and learned – a tone of football.

“He just seems like he’s comfortable,” Seahawks coach Pete Carroll said after the first rookie minicamp training session. “He understands it. He understands it.”

Learning was aided by regular study sessions that Bryant and his defensive teammates held throughout the season. In between training and teaching, they would meet for what they called the Football 500, where they dug into the Bearcats’ defensive plan and figured out how offenses could attack them.

Cincinnati’s defense ended in a draw with the fourth-fewest allowed points in 2021, and the Bearcats lost in the CFP semifinals. Bryant, a team captain who sometimes led these meetings, believes they were a factor.

“Just taking football IQ to the next level,” he said.

Being a student of the game will serve Bryant well as he tries to learn a new defense in time to get a starting job as a rookie. Elections in the fourth round do not often start right away, if ever, but it is realistic for Bryant. The Seahawks’ top two cornerbacks are open. And where former defensive coordinator Ken Norton Jr. developed a reputation at the team headquarters for a reluctance to play inexperienced players, then that roadblock should not exist for Bryant and other young defenders under Clint Hurtt.

Here’s a look at how Bryant and the rest of Seattle’s draft class can fit into the team’s 2022 plans.

LT Charles Cross, first round (No. 9 overall)

The Seahawks did not make Cross their highest draft pick since 2010 to get him to spend time on the bench. He’s a virtual lock to take over Duane Brown’s starting spot from Week 1. But Cross is still facing a learning curve coming from Mike Leach’s Air-Raid attack, who rarely ran the ball and did not ask his offensive linemen to play from a three-point position. The Seahawks had Cross as their second-ranked left tackle in this year’s draft, ahead of Evan Neal, so they clearly believe the transition will be manageable.

OLB Boye Mafe, second round (No. 40)

An NFL source says the Seahawks tried to trade in the late first round for another outside linebacker, Arnold Ebiketie. The Falcons then moved up in the second round to snatch Ebiketie two spots before Seattle had to pick. But the uber-explosive Mafe looks a lot more than a consolation prize. He created buzz in the first round after a season with seven sacks in 2021 and a strong display at the Senior Bowl. He has some rawness to work through, according to scouts, but has experience with much of what the Seahawks will ask him to do in their new defense. Expect Mafe to take a big part in Seattle’s edge-rushing rotation alongside Darrell Taylor and Uchenna Nwosu.

Walker was Seattle’s most – and perhaps only – debatable choice this year. But while some felt this was too high for a team likely to be a few years away from battle to take a running back, the Seahawks plan to lean heavily on the run and will likely need Walker to handle much of the race as a rookie. There is a big question as to whether Chris Carson will be acquitted after a neck surgery and Rashaad Penny has a long injury history.

Lucas faces a similar transition as Cross, having played from a two-point position in two pass-heavy college offenses. “Shoot, you would never have known that,” Carroll said after the first rookie practice. “I already had a chance to see half of the film of some of the teamwork we did. They’ve worked hard on it. They look very comfortable and they want to get better.” Lucas expects to start as a rookie, though not immediately. He has to beat UDFA Jake Curhan from 2021, who played well while stepping in for Brandon Shell.

CB Coby Bryant, Fourth Round (No. 109)

The cornerback may be the Seahawks’ most open position group outside the quarterback. They have Tre Brown coming after a promising but injury-shortened rookie season, brought Sidney Jones IV back on a modest deal and added Artie Burns for even less money. None of them are locked into starting roles.

CB Tariq Woolen, Fifth Round (No. 153)

Woolen did not do much during the rookie camp while resting a hamstring injury. But the sight of his 6-foot-4, 210-pound frame brought to mind another towering cornerback from Seattle’s recent past. Woolly bears have a strong resemblance to Three Flowers, though he is slightly larger and faster (4.26 seconds in the 40-yard line) with a 42-inch vertical. Woolen converted from receiver in 2019, so he is relatively new to the position. But Flowers played safety his entire college career, winning a starting job on the corner as a rookie despite Norton’s penchant for veterans. So you can not rule out Woolen playing right away.

OLB Tyreke Smith, Fifth Round (No. 158)

Smith may be competing for a list spot with Alton Robinson, who was not as productive last season as he was as a rookie in 2020.

WRs Bo Melton and Dareke Young, seventh round (Nos. 229 and 233)

Elections in the seventh round face an uphill battle just to get the team, let alone make an impact. Melton, Young and others will fight for what may be just one or two places behind DK Metcalf, Tyler Lockett, Freddie Swain and Dee Eskridge. As always, special teams will go to great lengths to determine the rear of the receiving corps. Melton’s experience that will give him a shot.

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