Golden Tate came to Seattle as a second round pick in 2010, amid huge expectations. He was going to be the centerpiece of Pete Carroll’s new passing offense. Fans were excited, and deservedly so.
Though Tate lacked prototypical size for a split end or a flanker, he flashed that ability to make plays after the catch that had many people salivating at the idea of getting him into space versus corners. Tate was a guy that routinely went up and snagged errant throws from Notre Dame quarterback Jimmy Clausen.
Without Tate, I’m not sure if Clausen is drafted in the second round by Carolina 12 picks before his favorite target.
Pete Carroll was fairly outspoken in his support of Tate, a converted high school running back and had fans pumped up about the highest drafted wide receiver by the Seahawks organization since Mike Holmgren spent a first rounder on Koren Robinson in 2001.
What many fans didn’t realize though was this: Golden Tate was one of the most unpolished receivers in the draft. At Notre Dame he was fed a limited route tree and often had to break off his routs to cover for his quarterback. He was a bit of a free-lancer out there in the NCAA. Add to that the fact that he never played receiver in high school and what you have is a bona fide project.
In his first preseason with the Seahawks, Tate flashed some big play ability, tempered by large swaths of inconsistency. He came into the league used to being the most athletic guy on the field at any given time, a common malady among draft picks, and it took his entire first season to get used to the fact that he wasn’t anymore. Then there was the “doughnut incident” where he was caught pilfering pastries from the Top Pot below his residence.
Fans started throwing out the bust label as fans are wont to do when a guy comes in and doesn’t immediately light the league on fire. It seemed that Tate wasn’t taking the game seriously, his immaturity showed.
Year two, Carroll came out hyping Tate’s off-season work and his dedication, fans were yet again expecting an explosion. We got an explosion all right, from undrafted rookie Doug Baldwin who surpassed Tate on the depth chart and proceeded to lead the team in yards and receptions for the season. What is forgotten however is that Tate quietly perfected his craft and had a decent year as the only wide receiver in the NFL with more than 35 targets to not drop a catchable pass.
Coming into year three, some questioned if Tate would make the final roster coming out of training camp. With the additions of veterans like Terrell Owens, Braylon Edwards, and Michael Clayton seemed to point to coaches trying their hardest to find someone to possibly supplant the under-performing second round pick.
Only one of those three guys is left on the roster. So far Tate hasn’t disappointed the coaches faith in him in 2012.
Through five games Tate has 10 catches for 144 yards and three touchdowns. Not especially eye popping stats to say the least, but sometimes pure statistics don’t tell the whole story. Tate caught two of his three TDs against Green Bay including the “Taterception” to win the game on Monday Night Football. His third came on Seattle’s final meaningful drive against Carolina last weekend on 3rd down to go ahead and provided the final margin of victory for Seattle.
Those stats also don’t account for the 53-yard bomb called back by offensive holding on right tackle Breno Giacomini. Nor does it take into account the brutal blocks that Tate delivers to defenders on a regular basis, the most notable being his complete erasure of Cowboys linebacker Sean Lee on a Russell Wilson first down scramble.
Tate’s sure hands have earned him more and more looks every week from rookie Russell Wilson. That security blanket is huge for any quarterback, especially so for one trying to learn the NFL game on the fly after being drafted in the third round.
When you look at the history of wide receivers transitioning to the NFL, it’s rare that you find a guy that comes in and lights the world on fire from day one. Most receivers in general take about three years to fully mature and grow into productive NFL players.
On draft day 2010, I told everyone that I knew that Tate wasn’t a finished product by any means and that year three would be make or break for him. There is a reason most draft analysts say you can’t grade a draft with any accuracy for three years. It takes almost everyone somewhere between 1-3 years to fully realize whether they have what it takes to make it or not.
Here we are in year three of the Golden Tate experiment and signs are trending upward. Tate is finally showing the signs of a complete WR that the Seahawks fanbase has been waiting for. If he can continue to prove himself throughout the season and hopefully into the postseason, the sky is the limit as far as his athletic potential.