The Seahawks have made 45 selections in the NFL draft since picking Russell Wilson with the 75th pick in the 3rd round in 2012. Only Tyler Lockett has made the Pro Bowl, and that was as a returner. Wilson was the 21st selection of the Pete Carroll and John Schneider regime. Eight of those first 21 picks became Pro Bowl position players. Anybody expecting a team to sustain the kind of blue chip return rate the Seahawks enjoyed in those first 21 picks is destined to be disappointed. That will go down as one of the greatest accumulations of talent in NFL history. That does not mean the team can afford to go through four drafts without producing Pro Bowl talent and hope to contend for championships. The dynasty 49ers drafted at least one Pro Bowl player every year from 1980 to 1991, except for one (1982). There were years where they exited the draft with only one viable NFL starter, but the draft was a huge success because that player was elite. Seattle exited the second day of the draft with a significant quantity of players, but success will ultimately judged by whether any of those names rise to become among the best at their position in the NFL.
Quality >>> quantity
I spent a fair amount of time on Twitter last night debating with people about whether quantity of picks gave the Seahawks a better chance to find that blue chip star. Their argument was by trading down, and accumulating more draft picks in the third and fourth rounds, the Seahawks were more likely to hit on a star. It is a fair question, and one that I have had over the years since Schneider has shown such a knack for finding talent later in the draft. History, though, does not necessarily support that strategy.
The implication here is that teams are far more likely to draft game-changing talent in the first round than in any other. Tilt your head another way, and you could say that you have an almost equal chance to find a Hall of Famer after the first round (49%) as you do in the first round (51%). If you look at Schneider’s draft history, here is what you find in each round:
Round 1 (40% Pro Bowlers)
*indicates Pro Bowl player
Round 2 (29% Pro Bowlers)
Round 3 (14% Pro Bowlers)
Tyler Lockett (looking for position players)
Round 4 (8% Pro Bowlers)
Round 5 (18% Pro Bowlers)
Round 6 & 7 (0% Pro Bowlers)
I’ll spare you the list…
I think we got spoiled as Seahawks fans that Seattle was able to unearth two diamonds in round five the first two years of Schneider’s time in Seattle. It has not happened again since, and the odds are it will not happen very often in the future. The Seahawks have drafted three Pro Bowl players after the third round since Schneider came aboard (none since 2011). You can throw in Doug Baldwin as a fourth, but he was not drafted. Players have always been quick to tell me that a big part of how players become Pro Bowlers is due to the business side of the NFL where general managers and coaches are more inclined to invest time, coaching, and opportunity in players selected earlier in the draft.
While it is true that plays a significant role, no team is more willing to give players a chance to earn their playing time than in Seattle, where almost half the roster is made up of undrafted free agents. Even here, game-changing talent is more often found earlier in the draft.
You only need one…
So many fans and media tend to judge drafts by how many players contribute. The truth is, just one great player is worth so much more than a balanced draft full of average or even above average starters.
People remember names like Jerry Rice, Tom Rathman, John Taylor, and Charles Haley when thinking about the 1980s 49er dynasty, but the team had already won two of their four Super Bowls before any of those players came aboard. Roger Craig and left tackle Bubba Paris were key draft choices in 1983 that helped the team to their second Lombardi Trophy in 1984.
One of the keys to the longevity of the 49ers run was their ability to infuse the roster with new Pro Bowl talent throughout the decade. It was not about quantity with the 49ers, as a number of their drafts only included one or two good players, but the quality of their good picks was extremely high. There was also some good fortune involved.
Just as Dwight Clark and Freddie Solomon were winding down at receiver, the team found Jerry Rice and John Taylor. As Dwight Hicks neared the end of his career, San Francisco drafted cornerbacks Tim McKyer and Don Griffin, which allowed them to shift Lott to safety. Fans want to believe champions are built purely by genius, but luck always plays a role.
Their 1985 draft consisted of Rice, Ricky Moore, Bruce Collie, Scott Barry, David Wood, and Donald Chumley. If you are wondering who those other guys are, you are not alone. None of them amounted to anything of note. Yet, I’m fairly certain the 49ers consider that a hugely successful draft.
Thoughts on who Seattle picked
Malik McDowell (Pass Rushing Defensive Tackle)
Outside of quarterback, the most impactful addition you can make to any team is a dynamic interior pass rusher. Edge rushers like Von Miller get most of the hype, but it is the guys inside who completely upend offenses. Michael Bennett has been that at times for Seattle, but has had to spend more time on the edge and is getting older. McDowell is tall (6’6″), quick, and young (20). Some had him as high as the top half of the first round before his last season at Michigan State where some effort questions surfaced. Schneider compared him to Calais Campbell in the press conference last night. That is high praise and probably an unfair comparison given the havoc-wreaking monster Campbell has become.
What I like about this pick is it gives Seattle more ammunition for a pass rush that was often inconsistent in applying pressure last year even if their sack total was good. McDowell is the type of rusher who can impact a play with his length even if he does not reach the passer. Think about Tom Brady and how quickly he releases the football. You are not going to sack him very often, but you can impede his passing lanes and knock down some throws.
What I don’t like about this pick is there is more risk involved than having grabbed more certain contributor like CB Kevin King when the team had a chance to grab him at 31 the day prior. King was a guy who almost certainly would be a starter from year one and could have Pro Bowl potential in this system. That said, if McDowell works out as a dynamic interior rusher, he will be far more valuable than even a Pro Bowl corner. Games are won and lost at the line of scrimmage.
Ethan Pocic (Swiss Army Offensive Lineman)
Everyone knows the Seahawks offensive line is a problem. In that light, it is no surprise the team spent early draft capital on a player they believe can help.
What I like about this pick is Pocic is a guy who has proven himself as a lineman in the most physical conference in college football. He also comes with a clean bill of health, unlike someone like Odhiambo last year. He provides a hedge against Justin Britt, should the team decide to let him walk after his contract is up after this season, and may also challenge at guard and even right tackle. For Seattle to spend a second round pick on Pocic, it says they believe he is guy who can step in right away and contribute and be a quality starter for years to come.
What I don’t like about this pick is this regime has shown little ability to scout and select offensive line talent, especially at the top of the draft. I take some solace in the fact that they admitted Tom Cable did not visit and scout this player the way he has for every top pick in the past. Cable has a lot of positive qualities, but he has blind spots that make him a poor evaluator of line prospects. Schneider said Cable was not involved as a smoke screen to keep other teams off their trail. It could just as easily be an adjustment based on self-scouting that the personnel guys need to own the offensive line evals from this point on. In any event, this pick pissed me off. It pissed me off because I do not trust this front office to pick an offensive lineman who can help, and because they spent two of their first five picks last year on lineman who were not very good last year. They admit they got too young on the line last year, and this will not help them get any more experienced. Are we looking at another year of the team telling fans to be patient because this is Pocic’s first season? Are we going to see more communication issues between him and other linemen that leave Russell Wilson exposed? Combine those questions with the fact that this draft was rich in defensive back talent that the team passed on with their first pick, and then passed on again with their second pick. It felt like Schneider looked at his roster and said he wanted another offensive lineman, and there was a big dropoff after Pocic, so let’s grab him now. It was the same logic he used for drafting Britt a few years back. I hate that logic. CB Chidobe Awuzie was sitting there waiting for Seattle at this pick. So was S Josh Jones. Pocic needs to be an above average starter to be worth passing on those types of players.
Shaquill Griffin (Speedy Corner, Possible Safety)
What I like about this pick is Griffin has some unique qualities. He has good length at 6’0″ and dynamic speed (4.38s 40-yard-dash). He has a pogo-stick 38.5″ vertical leap as well. This is the highest pick the Seahawks have used on a cornerback since Carroll took over. Griffin has tools that most of the previous Seahawks corners did not. He is more like Walter Thurmond III, who came out with great cover ability and measurables. His speed is remarkable enough that it is at least worth asking whether Seattle will cross-train him at free safety to give the team a possible hedge against another Earl Thomas injury or rash retirement.
What I don’t like about this pick is it came third. My concern is the Seahawks waited one pick too long to pluck talent from this cornerback pool. If Griffin becomes a serviceable starter when others picked before him become standout starters, this will have been a mistake.
Delano Hill (Safety, Possible Corner)
What I like about this pick is Seattle finally drafted another safety. They really have not invested in the safety position since 2010, when they took Thomas in the first and Chancellor in the fifth. They have not spent a pick before the sixth round on a safety since, and the depth at the position has really suffered as a result. Hill is a good special teams player as well, and solid hitter. He is a hedge against Chancellor leaving after this season.
What I don’t like about this pick is not much. His upside seems limited as his athletic ability is not outstanding. Probably does not have a Pro Bowl ceiling.
Nazair Jones (Run-Stuffing Defensive Tackle)
What I like about this pick is the Seahawks defensive line is getting super competitive. You have Reed, Ahtyba Rubin, Jefferson, and now Jones to battle it out inside. This gives the team a good chance to remain the best run defense in the NFL.
What I don’t like about this pick is spending a third round pick on a run-stuffer is pretty pricey. Seattle has been able to address this role with cheaper veteran options like Tony McDaniel, Alan Branch, and Rubin. Why fix what ain’t broke? Grabbing a higher ceiling player at a more impactful position would have been preferable.
Amara Darboh (Physical Wide Receiver)
What I like about this pick is Darboh is known not only for being a physical pass catcher, but a physical run blocker and special teams player. He does not need to come in and become a starter receiver to add value and contribute to the team right away.
What I don’t like about this pick is he does not possess quick twitch attributes that would help him create separation and be a more dynamic playmaker. He might be a better version of Jermaine Kearse, which would be a very good thing.