The Morning After: Seahawks Blow Off the First Round Again
Deja boo. Hours passed by as one franchise-altering talent after another went off the board in the first round. There were quick twitchers, tough thumpers, game breakers all being plucked from the candy box. The box was finally passed to the Seahawks, with some surprising choices left to pluck, and they waved it off. It was a move that was hard to argue with as there were so many good options remaining and by delaying gratification just a bit longer, they could gorge themselves on candy in the third round. Soon after, they were handed the box again with many of the same great choices left. Huzzah! More like harrumph. Seattle undoubtedly showed discipline and were rewarded with tremendous value by trading out of the first round entirely. They started the day with five of the top 106 picks in this draft, and ended it with seven of the top 111 picks. I might be dancing a jig if not for four years of mixed, but mostly disappointing, draft results. The truth is this team needs a injection of field-tilting talent. There is only one Reuben Foster, one Ryan Ramczyk. The Seahawks draft philosophy implies they know better and coach better than the rest of the league. Time to prove it.
Last season left a bad taste in my mouth. I didn’t like the way the team handled adversity. I didn’t like the pillow fighting pass-heavy offense. I certainly did not like the injuries and lack of depth ready to step in and step up. Most of those things can be tied back to a series of hollow offseasons that included oodles of draft choices. Remember when a Seahawks scout compared Kevin Pierre-Louis to NaVarro Bowman? How about when Seattle took Paul Richardson in a draft laden with receiver talent ahead of names like Davante Adams, Allen Robinson, Jarvis Landry, and Martavis Bryant? Or when they traded their first round pick and more for Percy Harvin instead of drafting Xavier Rhodes, DeAndre Hopkins, Alec Ogletree, Travis Frederick, Matt Elam, Kawann Short, or Le’Veon Bell?
I really do understand the logic and appeal of moving back three spots from 31 to 34 to gain a fourth round pick as the Seahawks did. There is just a flaw in that logic that seems to be missed. Good players do not make teams great. Great players make teams great. Super Bowls are won by teams with dominant attributes shaped by match-up nightmares. These are the guys who keep opposing coaches up at night trying to figure out how, by some miracle, he can keep those players from completely wrecking his game plan. Like it or not, those kinds of talents are not easily hidden. Sure, we hear about steals every year from the second round all the way through to undrafted free agents. But betting each year that the rest of the league is going to miss on that greatness 32 times on day one of the draft starts to feel like hubris more than clever at some point. Unless, that is, that you repeatedly prove your wisdom.
John Schneider and Pete Carroll proudly proclaimed that they did not have to give up “their guy” to move down. Schneider often talks about the notion that they scout for their team, not for the rest of the league. What he means is that the Seahawks offensive and defensive systems require players of certain shapes, sizes, and skills that may not necessarily match what other teams value. That is how they wound up with guys like Richard Sherman and Kam Chancellor in the fifth round many moons ago. There is not a lot of evidence to support that of late. Remember when we all reveled in the “draft experts” panning the Seahawks drafts only to see star after star emerge?
Name the last surprise hit the Seahawks found in the draft.
It was not Frank Clark. His talent was recognized immediately. There were simply off-field concerns. It was not Tyler Lockett. Every football fan across the league seemed to recognize his value as soon as the selection was made. It was not C.J. Prosise, who like Lockett, elicited cheers from draft experts and groans from Seahawks opposing fans right away. I don’t think the Seahawks have “out-thought” the rest of league on a draft pick since 2012.
Schneider and Carroll seem to have settled into a rhythm where they target their guys and will move down if they think they can still grab one of them down the board. When a guy like Foster or Ramczyk fall in their laps, they do not alter course. When a guy like Jonathan Allen falls down to 17, after being generally recognized as a top five pick, they do not alter course. Sometimes, the right answer when a great player falls to you, is to open your arms wide and welcome him to the fold, even if you have greater needs elsewhere. There are even times when it is worth reducing your total draft choices in order to move up in the first round and get a game-changer. Seattle has given away first round picks for Harvin and Jimmy Graham. Why not give up a future first on a rare occasion when fortune smiles on you with a surprise fall of some blue chipper?
I won’t sit here and pound the table that what the Seahawks did on day one of this draft was wrong. I also will not sit here and kneel at the altar of John and Pete, blindly approving every move they make. The same way they ask their players to prove it year in and year out, we should all ask the same of them. I am fairly certain that if a player had performances equivalent to the last four offseasons for the Seahawks, they would be on the outside looking in. Harsh, but true. I still believe this is one of the best front offices in the NFL, just like I still believe this is one of the best teams in the NFL, but this draft represents a crossroads for this franchise. The arrow has clearly pointed down the last two seasons. It will take Schneider’s best work today and tomorrow to flip that trend. Greatness demands it.