Unlock More Content Like This With A
Footballguys Premium Subscription
"Footballguys is the best premium
fantasy football only site on the planet."
Matthew Berry, NBC Sports EDGE
Welcome back for year 29 of the Eyes of the Guru column. Last summer, I started a new tradition with the EOTG, posting team-by-team rather than a division at a time. The goal here is to give our customers a more steady diet of information in smaller doses.
These teams have been covered so far:
There is another step in the evolution of the column this year as well. I have talked about the need for positional realignment among edge defenders and interior defensive linemen for several years now, and the True Position format has finally arrived. Not every league host site has come to see the light, but many have. The rest are eventually sure to follow.
Going forward, I will be treating and labeling all edge defenders as defensive ends. This will include 4-3 defensive ends, 3-4 outside linebackers, and anyone else in the new hybrid schemes of today's NFL that makes a living by chasing quarterbacks off the edge. Likewise, the defensive tackle position will include all interior defensive linemen in 4-3 schemes and all down linemen in 3-4 alignments. As a result of this approach, we have eliminated the constant arguments and flip-flopping of positions among these players.
For reference, when mentioning where players finished in the rankings last season, my model will be the standard Footballguys scoring system. This is the basic stuff:
- Tackles = 1.5
- Assists = .75
- Sacks = 4
- Forced fumbles = 3
- Fumble recoveries = 3
- Interceptions = 4
- Passes defended = 1.5
- Touchdowns = 6
When tackle numbers are mentioned, solo stops and assists are generally not lumped together. Unless there is a reference one way or the other, tackles refer to solo stops. When talking about the total number of takeaways for a player, I am counting interceptions, fumble recoveries, and fumbles forced since all of these are scored very similarly in most leagues. Keep in mind that based on scoring systems, rankings will vary (sometimes greatly) from league to league.
From time to time, the rookie corner rule will be referenced. For those who are new to IDP or the EOTG, the rookie corner rule is the basic fact that in the NFL, starting a rookie on the corner is like throwing chum to the sharks. Offensive coordinators will target young and inexperienced players as weaknesses. Thus, these guys have an accelerated number of opportunities. Often these players are the cream of the crop at the position (which is why they are starting so soon), and their numbers will begin to drop steadily after their rookie seasons.
The Seahawks started the rebuild process last year by purging a lot of salary and going with younger, cheaper players. No one expected a championship-caliber defense, and they didn't get one, but it was not all gloom and doom for a unit that showed well in some important areas.
Seattle was respectable versus the pass, ranking tenth in completion percentage and in the top half of the league in both passing yards and passing scores. They even ranked seventh with 45 sacks and were eighth in takeaways. The run defense, however, was a disaster. Seattle finished 30th in rush yards allowed, 27th in yards per carry, and only Chicago, Houston, Cleveland, and Detroit allowed more rushing scores.
With a better cap situation, the organization was able to address some needs via free agency, and they used two of their first three draft picks on defense. It's hard to say, at this early stage, that they will be a contender, but on paper, this team looks improved
The Seahawks made changes and additions at all three levels of the defense, but none more numerous than the defensive line, where four of the top five players, in terms of snaps played, are gone. The only holdovers from the starting lineup are edge defenders Uchenna Nwosu and nickel pass rusher Darrell Taylor.
Nwosu put up good numbers for an edge defender, going 42-25-9.5 with 5 turnovers. The key to his IDP value, however, is positional designation. Many look at Seattle as a 3-4 team because that's how they line up in base looks. Like many teams these days, however, they are in some variation of nickel as much, if not more than the base 3-4, which is why IDP is evolving to True Position format. As a linebacker, Nwosu has marginal value in all but big-play-based formats. As a defensive end/edge defender, made the top ten.
Seattle is notorious for rotating a slew of players along the front line, which usually renders all of them virtually worthless in IDP terms. Nwosu broke that mold last year, playing 952 of a possible 1251 snaps. No other Seattle lineman saw more than 50% of the action. Providing his role remains the same, Nwosu should be a solid option as a priority DE2.
Despite playing almost 450 fewer snaps, Darrell Taylor managed to tie Nwosu for the team lead in sacks with nine and a half. Unfortunately, all that time on the sideline on early downs kept Taylor's tackle production down to 23 solos and 3 assists. Maybe the shortage of playing time was designed to keep him fresh as a pass rusher. But if that were the thinking, why was Nwosu on the field so much? Maybe Taylor's snaps were limited because he is not a great anchor versus the run, but he couldn't have been any worse than the guys that played in those situations. The bottom line on Tayloe is this, he has the ability and potential to be an IDP factor, but it's not going to happen on 504 snaps a season.
With some of their veteran depth gone, there may not be so many players in the edge rotation this year. That could certainly help Taylor, but it doesn't necessarily mean a significantly bigger role for him. It is more likely that last year's second-round pick, Boye Mafe, will see the field more, with the second-round rookie, Derick Hall, taking Mafe's spot as the fourth man.
Mafe's numbers were not eye-catching in his rookie season, at 28-13-3, but that is not bad production (for an edge defender) on 453 snaps. He is not the quick twitch, upfield threat off the corner that Taylor is, but Mafe is a better run defender, which likely means he will slip past Taylor on the depth chart and into the starting role. If he can somehow get 750-800 opportunities, Mafe should provide good value.
Hall should get a fair share of action in passing situations, but like all rookies, he has much to learn. He is better at rushing the passer than setting the edge against the run. Hall checks in at 6'3” and 254 pounds, so he will need to add muscle before he'll get a lot of early down action. He has speed and power off the edge but needs to refine his technique and add some weapons to the arsenal before he can be an IDP factor.
Poona Ford, Quinton Jefferson, and Al Woods have all moved on. That should mean a promotion for Bryan Mone, who will join free-agent additions Dre'Mont Jones and Jarran Reed, who is back for a second stint with the team. Mone has been a steady contributor to the team since making the roster as an undrafted free agent in 2019. At 345 pounds, he can anchor the run defense from the nose tackle position but is not likely to show well in the box scores. In Reed and Jones, however, there is some IDP potential.
Reed's best season as a pro came with Seattle in 2018. That year he piled up 51 combined tackles, 10.5 sacks, and recovered a couple of fumbles for a top-10 finish among tackles. He hasn't sniffed that kind of production in any other season. Reed was injured in 2019, came back with 37 total tackles and 7 sacks in 2020, and has 5 sacks over the last two years. He should help with Seattle's leaky run defense and is worth keeping an eye on in leagues starting two tackles, but there is no reason to roster him until/unless he shows us something.
If Jones gets enough snaps, he can be an IDP factor, at least in those leagues that call him a tackle. He's missed seven games over the last three seasons but has at least five and a half sacks in each of them. In his final season with the Broncos, Jones put up career-best numbers of 47 combined tackles, 6.5 sacks, and a forced fumble. There is not much chance he will break out for more, but Jones could make a good DT2 target in some leagues.
- Edge Uchenna Nwosu –Quality second starter if he can prove last year was not a mirage
- Edge Darrell Taylor – Has the tool and the potential, just needs the snap numbers
- Edge Boye Mafe – Breakout candidate
- Edge Derick Hall – Rookie with long-term potential but no immediate expectations
- Edge Alton Robinson – No impact expected
- DT Jarran Reed – Possible DT2 but probably not worth a roster spot
- DT Dre'Mont Jones – High floor, but the ceiling is limited
- DT Bryan Mone – No impact anticipated
- DT Mario Edwards Jr – No impact
- DT Cameron Young – Could see some rotational time as a rookie
It is hard to say how much better the Seattle run defense would have been with Bobby Wanger, but it's safe to say they would not have been any worse. With Wagner back in Seattle for the season, we should soon have a better answer to that question.
Seattle saved a lot of money when they let Wagner walk last off-season. They went into the 2022 campaign with Jordyn Brooks and Cody Barton as the starting inside linebackers. For IDP managers, this was a great move as both were significant fantasy factors. Brooks finished fifth at 13.5 points per game, and Barton made the top 20 at 11.4. For the Seahawks, the results could have been better.
There will be a different look when this season starts, though it may feel like De-Ja-Vu. Barton took the free-agent shuttle to Washington and Brooks suffered a knee injury in late December. Some reports say Brooks is on track to be ready for week one while others believe he could miss virtually the entire season. My guess is somewhere in between.
If Brooks is available to start the season, it is all but certain he will not be fully recovered. On rare occasions, we have seen players return and play well with less than a year of recovery from an ACL injury. More often, we have seen it take players 12-18 months to be themselves again. NFL teams tend to play it safe in these situations, thus it seems likely that Brooks will start on the PUP list and miss at least six games.
The fact that Seattle was able to bring back a guy that was the centerpiece of their defense for a decade, is a huge plus for the team. It's a different scheme than the ones Wagner was part of previously, but the future Hall of Famer should have no problem adapting. At age 33, he is in the fourth quarter of a stellar career but there is enough fuel in the tank to keep Wagner playing at a high level for at least another year or two.
If there were a Hall of Fame for fantasy players, Wagner would be a first-ballot lock. He is an ironman, missing nine games over eleven seasons (one since 2015), and is a perennial top-twelve linebacker, with several top-five finishes. Wagner has at least 82 solo stops in seven consecutive seasons with an average of 62 assists and 5 splash plays over that span. He may be nearing the end, but Wagner is still a viable LB1 for this season.
Despite missing a game and a half at the end of the season, Jordyn Brooks was one of six players to reach triple-digit solo tackles and at least 55 assists in 2022. Even if he were healthy, lining up next to Wagner would take a bite out of those numbers. Considering how late the injury happened, redraft managers might be better off avoiding him, or maybe taking a shot in the last round if he is still there. For dynasty managers, this might be a good time to take advantage of the situation and get him onto your roster. Brooks turns 26 in October and has a lot of good years ahead of him.
For dynasty managers stuck in limbo with Brooks, it might be a good idea to snag Devin Bush as a possible stopgap. A former first-round pick of the Steelers in 2019, Bush had a great rookie season, then suffered a serious injury in 2020 and has not been the same since. He fell out of grace with the Steelers after a pair of less-than-inspiring seasons and was picked up for a bargain price by the Seahawks. The change of venue might be exactly what Bush needs to kick start his career. Besides, Barton was a stopgap player last year, look what he managed to do in this scheme.
One thing the Seahawks do not have at linebacker is depth. If Wagner and Brooks or Bush remain healthy, there is no problem. If Brooks is not ready and either of the other two goes down, big problem. The next man up would be Jon Rattigan, a third-year, former undrafted free agent out of Army. He's a special teams guy with 16 career tackles.
- ILB Jordyn Brooks – Quality LB1 if healthy but may not be until late in the year or even 2024
- ILB Bobby Wagner – Should be his normal, LB1 self
- ILB Devin Bush – Seattle's insurance policy in case Brooks is not ready
- ILB Jon Rhattigan – Special teams contributor
Continue reading this content with a ELITE subscription.
An ELITE subscription is required to access content for IDP (individual defensive players) leagues. If this league is not a IDP (individual defensive players) league, you can edit your leagues here.
"Footballguys is the best premium
fantasy football only site on the planet."
Matthew Berry, NBC Sports EDGE