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Rookie WR Kenny Lawler makes strong first impression with Seahawks

Kenny Lawler's size and leaping ability make him an intriguing outside receiver prospect for the Seahawks. Elaine Thompson/AP

After the Seattle Seahawks took Kenny Lawler in the seventh round of the draft, the wide receiver was asked to offer up his 40-yard dash time.

"My best time in the 40?" Lawler asked with a laugh. "Within the pre-draft? The best time I ever clocked? Or just anywhere? I remember one time, my coaches right before last season clocked me, they said I had a 4.47. But I got clocked at 4.63 [at the combine]. I'm over the 40 times right now. I just want to go play football for the 'Hawks."

Lawler's time (actually a 4.64) ranks in the 11th percentile among wide receivers and helps explain why he lasted to the 243rd overall pick.

But the Seahawks have shown in the past that they're not worried about where guys get taken. They want to see what players can accomplish once they get into the program. With Lawler, the scouting and coaching staffs have reason to believe he can compensate for the lack of speed with other factors.

Lawler is 6-foot-2, has long arms (33 3/8 inches) and huge hands (10.5 inches). He does an excellent job of high-pointing the ball and shows good body control. In other words, he doesn't necessarily need to separate or be open to make a play.

On Friday, during an 11-on-11 drill, Lawler ran a route over the middle, leaped up with his arms fully extended and hauled in a Trevone Boykin pass. The next day, he ran a back-shoulder fade down the right sideline, and while the pass took him out of bands, Lawler did a fantastic job of adjusting to the ball and making the catch even though he had a defender all over him.

According to Matt Harmon of NFL.com, Lawler converted 72.7 percent of the time on contested catches last season, the fourth-best mark of any receiver in the class.

"He had a great camp," Seahawks coach Pete Carroll said. "He showed us that he has a marvelous catching range. We thought he had as good of hands as anyone in the draft and felt very fortunate to get him where we did, and he had the opportunities and he showed it. He made plays down the field, made plays in traffic, running around... I think he has a big upside in terms of development."

Lawler weighed in at 203 pounds at the combine, but Carroll said he's lost 15 pounds since then and needs to get stronger. Last season at California he caught 52 balls for 658 yards and 13 touchdowns.

While the Seahawks seem to like what they have in Lawler, it could be tough for him to get on the field as a rookie. Doug Baldwin, Jermaine Kearse and Tyler Lockett have the top three receiver spots nailed down, barring injuries. Lawler will be competing with Paul Richardson and others for the No. 4 spot.

But his skill set is different from his peers. Lockett and Baldwin can work inside and outside. Baldwin is a phenomenal route-runner, and Lockett has the potential to be a true vertical threat. Lawler looks to be strictly an outside receiver who does his best work outside the numbers in the intermediate range.

"His hands, arguably the best hands in the draft," general manager John Schneider said. "Red zone, adjusting to the ball, his body control. Outstanding."

The best-case scenario for Lawler as a rookie is probably to win the No. 4 job, make an impression on special teams and get some snaps as a rotational player or when the Seahawks have favorable matchups against smaller cornerbacks.

He has a long way to go, but Lawler made a strong first impression and seems to have the coaches' attention.