The Seattle Seahawks face big changes with free agency looming for seven starters from last year's team. By now you've heard and read the names many times before - outside linebacker Bruce Irvin, left tackle Russell Okung, right guard J.R. Sweezy, wide receiver Jermaine Kearse, defensive tackles Brandon Mebane and Ahtyba Rubin and cornerback Jeremy Lane.
There has been plenty of speculation as to who among this group will return but for the sake of conversation, let's assume for a moment that John Schneider and the scouting staff were tasked with replacing every single starter with players from the 2016 NFL draft.
Prioritizing the offensive line or defensive tackle with the club's first two picks would result in a dramatically different class than if Seattle opted to take a outside linebacker-wide receiver approach at No. 26 and 56 overall. So rather than project a mock draft nearly two months out, let's start with a simpler question:
Who among the incoming rookie class most resemble the players Seattle may lose in free agency?
So, without any further explanation, here are the incoming rookie comparisons to Seattle's seven starting free agents.
Left tackle Russell's Okung comparison is to Michigan State's Jack Conklin.
Rationale: Let's start with size. Okung is 6-5, 310 with 36" arms. Conklin is 6-6, 308 pounds with 35" arms. Both have good initial quickness to remain outside but aren't elite in this area, relying more on their length and strength to catch edge rushers and therefore will be beaten on occasion. Both, however, are very physical in the running game and are highly regarded for their work ethic and toughness.
Right guard J.R. Sweezy's comparison is to Arizona State's Christian Westerman.
Rationale: Like Sweezy, Westerman is a bit inconsistent on tape and is a polarizing prospect in the scouting community. Each is very physical and aggressive, never backing down to a fight. Both possess the athleticism to get to the second level. Both endured a tough transition with Sweezy, of course, making the switch from the defensive side of the ball with the Seahawks and Westerman initially signing with Auburn before transferring back closer to home with the Sun Devils.
Defensive tackle Brandon Mebane's comparison is to UCLA's Kenny Clark.
Rationale: Physically speaking, Clark looks like he could be related to Mebane as he possesses a thick lower half which helps him anchor against the run. Neither is going to provide much in terms of a pass rush but have a knack for making plays in the passing game because the locate the ball and have a high-revving motor. Both were highly durable, quietly productive and ultra-reliable throughout their respective careers.
Defensive tackle Ahtyba Rubin's comparison is to Clemson D.J. Reader.
Rationale: Again, the physical similarities are pretty significant. The 6-2, 325 pound Rubin caught attention scouts attention with his terrific strength, lifting the bench press (225 pounds) an eye-popping 35 times in 2008. Reader is slightly bigger and had 30 reps in Indianapolis last week. Both are fairly underrated despite top competition throughout their respective careers. Both project(ed) as late round picks who have shown a history of stepping up their play in big games.
Outside linebacker/defensive end Bruce Irvin's comparison is to Boise State's Kamalei Correa.
Rationale: Selecting a comparison for Irvin was the most difficult because frankly there are few athletes like him. The explosive burst and fluidity he demonstrated at the Combine (including a 4.50 second 40-yard dash) at 6-3, 245 pounds was unmatched by anyone this year, including Correa. However, Correa was reasonably close with a 4.69-second time at 6-3, 243 pounds. Like Irvin, he faced a lot of pass-happy offenses in college and was typically asked to rush the passer, recording 19 sacks over last two seasons. Each were considered to have a somewhat down season in their final college campaign. Each also possess the athleticism, awareness, work ethic and closing speed to effectively transition to outside linebacker while also dropping down to rush on 3rd down.
Cornerback Jeremy Lane's comparison is to LSU's Jalen Mills.
Rationale: Lane (6-0, 190) and Mills (6-0, 191) are almost twins in terms of stature and played their collegiate ball in the same talent-rich state of Louisiana. Both possess terrific quickness as demonstrated both on tape and in the 3-cone and short shuttle times, with Lane checking in at 7.02 and 4.14 seconds and Mills at 6.86 and 4.0, respectively. Both possess a swagger about them and the physicality necessary to line up inside in the nickel closer to offensive linemen and play the run.
Wide receiver Jermaine Kearse's comparison is to Michigan State wide receiver Aaron Burbridge.
Rationale: Kearse and Burbridge were each productive players against top competition. Neither is regarded as an elite athletes but they win in part because of savvy route-running and rare body control to make circus catches. Both have shown a knack for big plays in clutch moments. Unfortunately, some silly drops are on tape for both players, perhaps because of their relatively small hands. Kearse's were measured at 9 1/4". Burbridge's are considerably smaller at just 8 1/4".