If the Seattle Seahawks are going to rejoin the ranks of the NFL's elite teams, they're going to have to do it through the draft.
Their 2017 class looks as if it could be a good start, though the uncertainty with top pick Malik McDowell's health makes it impossible to count on Seattle ever getting anything from him.
Best rookie: Running back Chris Carson (seventh round) might have had a case for this distinction had he not gone down with a season-ending leg/ankle injury a month after winning the starting job out of training camp. The nod instead goes to cornerback Shaquill Griffin (third), who started for most of the season on the right side and looked as if he belongs there for good. There's room for improvement, to be sure. Griffin was occasionally beaten deep, which is a cardinal sin as far as coach Pete Carroll is concerned, but he showed more than enough to believe that he can become a mainstay in Seattle's defense. Defensive tackle Nazair Jones (third) also showed promise before his rookie season was cut short by a high-ankle sprain. Carson looks like a starter as long as he can stay healthy.
Most improved rookie: The Seahawks considered Ethan Pocic the most versatile offensive lineman in last year's draft, which was one reason they chose him in the second round. With his ability to play multiple positions, it was somewhat surprising that Pocic wasn't playing early in the season despite a few openings in the starting lineup. But he eventually took over at left guard when Luke Joeckel needed surgery, starting five games there before moving to right guard for the final six once Joeckel returned. Pocic seemed to be settling in by season's end. He says he wants to add 15-20 pounds during the offseason after playing at under 300 at times in 2017. Where he'll play next season isn't entirely certain. Joeckel will be an unrestricted free agent and Germain Ifedi struggled in his first season at right tackle.
Most disappointing rookie: No doubt about this one. The Seahawks chose McDowell in the second round with the belief that he could make an immediate impact as a rotational pass-rusher. But he didn't play a single snap after suffering what the team has described as a severe concussion during a summer ATV accident. He was also arrested this past December on a disorderly conduct charge following a dispute at a nightclub. The Seahawks have been vague about the specifics of McDowell's injury, but it's clear that there's a chance he never plays football again. What a huge disappointment that would be for all involved.
Jury is still out on ...: Delano Hill, Tedric Thompson and Mike Tyson. The Seahawks restocked their secondary when they spent four of their 11 selections on defensive backs. Griffin was the only one who got any playing time on defense outside of brief spot duty. Hill (third) and Thompson (fourth) played special teams, and Tyson (sixth) spent most of the season on the practice squad. The Seahawks hope Tyson can make the transition from college safety to big-bodied NFL cornerback. Hill, a strong safety, will have a chance to factor into Seattle's defensive plans next season. Kam Chancellor's neck injury might prevent him from playing again and his replacement in 2017, Bradley McDougald, is scheduled to become an unrestricted free agent.
Undrafted rookie evaluation: The Seahawks gave offensive lineman Jordan Roos a $20,000 signing bonus after he went undrafted, a large figure that's reflective of how highly they regarded him coming out of Purdue. Roos was the only UDFA to make the team heading into the season. His only real action on offense came in Week 17 after Pocic hurt his knee, but Roos will have a chance to compete for a larger role in 2018, probably at one of the guard spots. Tight end Tyrone Swoopes spent most of the season on the practice squad after turning some heads in training camp. He's an interesting prospect, having played quarterback in college before Seattle converted him to tight end. Jimmy Graham and Luke Willson are scheduled to be unrestricted free agents, so Swoopes could find an opening.