The Seattle Seahawks’ 2023 NFL draft added 10 new players to the roster as well as several undrafted rookies. Seattle’s two first-round picks, Illinois cornerback Devon Witherspoon and Ohio State wide receiver Jaxon Smith-Njigba, should make an immediate impact on the team. But which Seahawks rookie sleeper will come in and put his imprint on the 2023 season? The player with the best chance to do so is the team’s fifth-round pick out of Michigan, center Olu Oluwatimi.
C Olu Oluwatimi is the Seahawks rookie sleeper to watch in 2023
When the Seahawks traded away their Super Bowl-winning franchise quarterback in the 2022 NFL offseason, most NFL pundits believed that it was the beginning of a massive rebuild that would send the team down to the bottom of the standings to work their way back up again.
However, much-maligned journeyman QB Geno Smith led the team to the playoffs last season with the help of an incredible 2022 NFL Draft class.
Now, the Seahawks are rebuilding and restocking their roster with a ton of young talent — thanks to all the picks they got from the Denver Broncos — but they are also winning games in the process.
With their 10 picks in the 2023 draft, the Seahawks continued their reloading, and the two difference-makers they got in Round 1 should come in and become starters right away.
The most interesting Seahawks rookie, though, came in Round 5, and he also has a good chance to be in the starting lineup for the team’s Week 1 matchup vs. the Los Angeles Rams.
Michigan center Olu Oluwatimi was a steal as the 154th pick in the Seahawks 2023 draft.
Oluwatimi started his career at Air Force before transferring to Virginia, closer to his home in Maryland. He became an All-ACC center in his two years playing for the Cavaliers, before transferring one more time to play his final season with the Michigan Wolverines.
In the Big 10, Oluwatimi became, not just the best center in college football but one of the best overall linemen. He won the Rimington Award as the nation’s top center, the Outland Trophy, as the best offensive or defensive lineman in the nation, and the Wolverines’ line took home the Joe Moore Award as the best unit in college football.
At 6-foot-2 ½, 309 pounds, Olu Oluwatimi has good size for a center and decent athleticism. The main knock on him is that he “benefited from tight splits and a scheme designed to take advantage of double teams up front,” per NFL.com.
The good news is, Oluwatimi should be an excellent fit in the Seahawks’ scheme, and with the young talent on the line, which is why he has such a good chance to become the Seahawks rookie sleeper this season.
In last year’s NFL draft, the team took Mississippi State offensive tackle Charles Cross in the first round at pick No. 9 and Washington State OT Abraham Lucas in the third round at pick No. 72. In 2022, these bookends started 16 games together, the most ever by a rookie OT duo.
This season, the Seahawks return Cross and Lucas, as well as 2022 starting left guard Damien Lewis. The team declined to re-sign starting right guard Gabe Jackson, instead elevating backup Phil Haynes and bringing in guard/center Evan Brown.
With the arrival of Oluwatimi, the Michigan man should win the starting center job as Haynes and Brown compete for the right guard spot. If this Seahawks rookie sleeper does immediately win the center position, the Seattle line will have four of the five offensive line spots locked down by talented players 26 and under.
That is great news for Geno Smith, whoever the next QB is, and the large stable of young running backs Pete Carroll has brought in during the last two drafts.
Last season, the Seahawks drafted Kenneth Walker III from Michigan State, and he rushed for over 1,000 yards as a Seahawks rookie. In the 2023 NFL Draft, Carroll and general manager John Schneider brought in two more backs — Zach Charbonnet from UCLA in Round 2 and Kenny McIntosh from Georgia in Round 7 — as the team obviously wants to run the ball a lot moving forward.
While the Russell Wilson trade initially looked like Seattle waving the white flag in the “Legion of Boom” and “Let Russ Cook” eras, it now seems like it will go down as one of the smartest and most productive trades in NFL history.
And if Olu Oluwatimi does indeed become the Seahawks rookie sleeper of the 2023 NFL season, and solidifies the team’s young offensive line for years to come, it will look even better.