Supposed #1 receiver Deion Branch missed five games in the 2007 regular season with foot and calf injuries
and suffered a torn ACL in Seattle's divisional loss to Green Bay. That injury
will affect part of perhaps all of his 2008 season. Rising star D.J. Hackett
missed ten games with an ankle sprain that he just couldn’t seem to shake,
and signed a two-year, $3.5 million deal with the Carolina Panthers that the
Seahawks wouldn't match.
The Seahawks' leading receiver last year was 34-year-old slot man Bobby Engram, who came back to enjoy a miracle season one year after suffering from a thyroid condition that threatened his career. Engram, who was the team's most productive wideout in their Super Bowl season of 2005 as well, caught 94 passes for 1,147 yards and six touchdowns as the Seahawks went pass-happy in the second half of the season to compensate for an anemic running game.
Nate Burleson comes into
2008 as the #2 receiver. He's dynamic in the short game, but Seattle's West
Coast Offense also benefits from a deep threat. Youngsters Ben Obomanu, Courtney Taylor and Logan Payne provide interesting potential., However, there's no lead-pipe
lock in what was once thought to be one of the NFL's deepest receiver corps.
Could Sweed be the answer? Seahawks.NET draft editor Scott Eklund says that it's a possibility, comparing the receiver to Denver's Brandon Marshall.
He was one of the more talented receivers in the nation heading into the 2007 season, but Sweed’s senior year at Texas has to be considered a disappointment. Sweed is a big receiver who has the quickness and athleticism to be a very good one down the road, but he has lapses in concentration and he’s not a quick starter. Sweed is at is best when he uses his excellent size and strength to out-muscle defenders, both big and small. He’s a physical receiver that doesn’t shy away from contact and he has the athleticism to make the spectacular look routine.
There were thoughts that Sweed might enter the draft in 2007 as a junior, but he came back for his team. "I feel like I'm a leader on this team, and I want to be a positive influence on the younger guys," he said before the 2007 season. "That's why I think it's important for me to come back, develop as a player and get my degree. My intention is to help this team win as many games as we can."
Unfortunately, Sweed missed the last seven games of that season with torn ligaments in his left wrist. He caught only 19 passes for 301 yards and three touchdowns after bringing in 46 balls for 801 yards and 12 touchdowns as a junior. He reinjured the wrist during Senior Bowl practice, was unable to participate in receiving drills at the Combine, and only really got back on track during his March 19 Pro Day. That's where he ran a 4.4-40 yard dash and finally saw the ball again. He dropped the first three passes thrown to him, but settled down and nabbed all the deep throws.
Considered by many to be the NCAA's best receiver prospect going into his senior season, Sweed was undercut to a point by his injuries. He's still a first-round pick, and it's not impossible that he might be the best player on the board when the Seahawks pick 25th overall.
Sweed discussed several subjects with the media at the Combine, and his injury status was on the minds of everyone in attendance. "The wrist is 100 percent healed," he said. "I’ve been going through a lot of MRIs, x-rays and it’s 100 percent healed. The range of motion, out of 100 percent is I’d say about 65 percent -– more than halfway, which is good. I talked to a lot of people in there and they said considering the amount of time that’s a pretty speed recovery. So I’m happy and I’m on my way back to being 100 percent."
He didn't regret going to the Senior Bowl, despite the setback. "Nah, I’d go back there and compete again. A lot of people thought that I re-injured my wrist. The only thing that happened was at that time I only had 10 percent range of motion out of 100 percent. And the doctor advised me not to go ... ‘It may hurt your draft status or whatever.’ At that time, I didn’t really care. I hadn’t played football in over five or six months (actually about 3 ½ months), so I was eager to get out there and play.
"I was doing well and it was one-on-ones, and a guy came and grabbed my hand and bent it down to about 70 percent when it wasn’t ready to, so you can imagine the pain … that was Day 1. So I came back for Day 2 and I was thinking it won’t happen again. And the same guy did it again. And that was when I decided it was time to shut it down. It wasn’t a re-injury, it was just a breaking up of the scar tissue, which actually helped me recover quicker – so I want to really thank the guy.
"I wanted to show: A) that I could get open, and B) that I could run by guys; but also that I am a tough guy willing to compete – because I felt like coaches at the University of Texas, they knew that every day I come out there and compete. But the NFL coaches, they never had a chance to meet me, so I wanted to come in and leave an impression on them that I’m here and I’m going to compete."
He also showed his gift of gab, describing teammate Jamaal Charles' personality as "A big question mark, with an exclamation point behind it."
That could adequately explain how many feel about Limas Sweed's future. The exclamation opint are his size, speed and separation ability. The questions mark, especially for teams who have been burned by the specter of receiver injuries in the recent past, is the recovery of that wrist.
Based on their interest,
the Seahawks don't seem to feel that he's out of the question.
Doug Farrar is the Editor-in-Chief of Seahawks.NET, a staff writer for Football Outsiders, and he writes NFL previews for the New York Sun. Feel free to e-mail Doug here.