Back in 2013, the Seahawks invested a fourth-round selection on Kansas State receiver Chris Harper, hoping he would develop as a downfield threat for quarterback Russell Wilson.
But the 6-foot-1, 228-pound Harper failed to secure a roster spot out of training camp in Seattle, becoming the second-highest drafted rookie to fail to make the opening day roster that year. He bounced around with three other teams over the next two-plus seasons before washing out of the league completely in 2015.
The moral of the story? The Seahawks do not care about draft pedigree when constructing the best 53-man roster possible each season and being selected in the middle rounds doesn’t guarantee a roster spot.
What does that mean for 2019 fourth-round pick Gary Jennings? Despite getting off to a slow start in preseason play, coach Pete Carroll isn’t concerned at all about his standing in a fierce competition at receiver.
“It’s been hard, him and Malik [Turner], the ball hasn’t come their way very often yet.” Carroll said. “But they’re doing well physically, he’s a monster out there, really strong and explosive, and he’s done a really nice job.”
Seattle used three draft choices on receivers in April, including a second-round pick on DK Metcalf and later a seventh-round selection on John Ursua. Sandwiched in the middle, Jennings was expected to come in and fight for playing time out of the slot as well as on the outside.
Starting at West Virginia, Jennings caught 97 passes for over 1,000 yards as a junior and followed up with 13 touchdown receptions as a senior in 2018. At the NFL scouting combine in February, he further improved his stock by running a blazing 4.42-second 40-yard dash.
Unfortunately, Jennings has been playing catch up since being called by general manager John Schneider on draft weekend, as he missed substantial time during Seattle’s offseason program nursing a hamstring injury. With at least eight viable candidates battling for five or six roster spots, every practice and every rep matters.
In his Seahawks debut last Thursday night, Jennings was targeted twice but didn’t record a single reception. Several players competing against him shined, including undrafted rookie Jazz Ferguson, who led the team with four receptions for 54 yards and scored a touchdown.
Still, it was just one preseason contest. Three preseason games remain left to be played and as he continues to acclimate to his new surroundings, Carroll remains bullish on the potential of the explosive 6-foot-1, 216-pound receiver.
“You can really see it in the one on ones when he can compete and when the ball is coming his way. There just hasn’t been enough football’s flying for these guys to show yet…” Carroll said, adding, “Every single day matters to these guys, he’s shown he’s got the athleticism, he’s got the size, and he’s learning the system, really strong hands too so, really good prospect.”
With the clock ticking towards the regular season, Harper’s plight should serve as a cautious reminder to Jennings that his place on the Seahawks roster is far from secured at this point. But a strong performance against the Vikings on Sunday would work wonders keeping him on the right side of the bubble in a crowded positional group.