Each position is assigned a classic "A-F" grade as is each individual player. A's are rewarded for exemplary Pro Bowl-caliber play. B's are given for very good to good play - better than the league average. C's are given for average play and D's for significantly below average play. Failing grades are reserved for players who, frankly, shouldn't be on the roster.
Wide Receivers: Throughout virtually all of the Pete Carroll and John Schneider tenure, the Seahawks' wide receivers have been characterized by many outside of the organization as "pedestrian." The reality is, their play this season has been quite good. Opportunities, however, have been far and few between.
With the focus on running the football with Marshawn Lynch and the arrival of Jimmy Graham as the club's primary pass-catcher, Seattle's receivers don't get much action, catching only 81 passes (for 1,071 yards and five touchdowns) through the first eight games of the year. That isn't to suggest that the wideouts aren't getting open or dropping the ball when opportunities arise, only that they rarely do. Admit it, even as the die-hard Seahawks fan you probably are, you didn't invest early picks in your fantasy football draft on Seattle's wide receivers, so this is nothing unexpected.
Perhaps the epitome of Seattle's underrated receivers is Doug Baldwin, who leads the Seahawks wideouts in targets (41), catches (31), receiving yards (345) and touchdowns (two). At 5-10, 189 pounds Baldwin lacks the height, wingspan and straight-line speed most clubs prefer outside but he's proven savvy and tough enough to handle this role for the Seahawks. He's at his best out of the slot, where his phenomenal agility and route-running have made him Seattle's most dependable target on third down. Frankly, on a team that threw the ball more to its slot receivers (like New England Patriots, Pittsburgh Steelers or Green Bay Packers), Baldwin might be competing for Pro Bowls.
Jermaine Kearse isn't as dependable as Baldwin on underneath routes but he remains Seattle's most consistent vertical threat, showing sneaky downfield speed and remarkable body control to contort in the air to make the circus catch look routine. Though he has 10 fewer catches than Baldwin, Kearse owns the significantly higher yards-per-catch average, generating 16.1 yards per play (as compared to Baldwin's 11.1). At 6-1, 209 pounds, Kearse is perhaps the closest thing to today's prototypical NFL receiver on Seattle's roster. Kearse does not possess top-notch balance and agility to generate separation when driving back to the football, which is among the reasons why most of damage comes on verticals, combo routes and drags across the middle.
Tyler Lockett has quickly emerged as Seattle's most dangerous receiver, using his legitimate 4.40 speed to challenge vertically and create room to hustle back towards Russell Wilson on comeback routes. The athleticism was readily apparent at Kansas State during the scouting process but the rookie has impressed Seattle's coaching staff with his toughness and savvy, breaking off routes when Wilson begins to scramble and recognizing where he is in relation to the first down marker and sidelines. Still, for as exciting as Lockett has been as a wide receiver, his greatest contribution has clearly been on special teams, where he's already returned a punt and kickoff for scores. Over the first eight games of the year, Lockett has 20 catches for 253 yards, including a 43-yard score in Week Seven against the San Francisco 49ers.
With opportunities to catch the ball tough to come by for Seattle's starters, its reserves certainly haven't seen many chances. The trio of Ricardo Lockette, Chris Matthews and B.J. Daniels caught just nine passes for 135 yards and one score over the first eight games of the year. The most productive of the group was Lockette (four catches for 69 yards and a touchdown), who, of course, will miss the rest of the season after undergoing surgery on his neck following a horrific collision in Seattle's win over Dallas.
Lockette is a classic speedster with the build and temperament to have also emerged as Seattle's best gunner on special teams coverage. That's where he'll be missed most as the Seahawks hope to get last year's second round pick Paul Richardson back on the field to duplicate (and perhaps improve upon) Lockette's production as the No. 4 receiver.
Matthews and Daniels are polar opposite in size and style. The 6-5, 219 pound Matthews is Seattle's tallest wideout and his effectiveness was, of course, seen in the Super Bowl. He's not particularly explosive, however, and his role remains dependent on individual matchups with Wilson simply throwing the ball high in the air and letting Matthews use his height and long arms to pluck it.
The 5-11, 217 pound Daniels is a former quarterback whose value lies with his versatility and agility. He's elusive, tough and a surprisingly natural hands-catcher but has just one catch for 12 yards on the year. Daniels was recently released from the active roster and was signed back to Seattle's practice squad.
Doug Baldwin's Grade: B+
Jermaine Kearse's Grade: B-
Tyler Lockett's Grade: B-
Ricardo Lockette's Grade: C+
Chris Matthews' Grade: C
B.J. Daniels' Grade: C
Overall Position Grade: C+