There’s been a fairly loud contingent of Seattle Seahawks fans who have argued that John Schneider and Pete Carroll have done a terrible job at drafting since their historic run from 2010-2012. (First addressed here by Ben Baldwin.) This is anchored by the fact that the only remaining player from the 2013 draft (Luke Willson) could now also be leaving via free agency, and the only remaining player from 2014 is Justin Britt.
In fact, there are also only two players left from 2015 (Frank Clark and Tyler Lockett), meaning that Schneider and Pete did not hit on their other six picks that year, despite a full season of starts from Mark Glowinski.
Painting the picture that way, it certainly does seem like the Seahawks have struggled to add talent and made too many swings in the draft without enough contact since 2013. However, to know what is an acceptable number of swings and hits, we’d have to know what the expected number of swings and hits is. There is the 32-team, league-wide picture, but for now let’s focus on the most important zone of relativity: The NFC West.
Seattle’s in an interesting division for drafting in the last five years, with one of their rivals taking the most players in the league over that span (and doing horribly) and another rival who has perhaps had some of the best results. Where do Pete and John actually rank within the division, and are they doing a bad job of drafting when measured against expectations and rivals?
Here are all the Seahawks draft picks over the last five years:
The Seahawks have made 49 picks in the last five years, second-most in the league behind the 49ers. Out of those 49, only one has made a Pro Bowl (Tyler Lockett) and that was once, and on special teams. That’s a good way to start feeling like Seattle has been terrible at drafting, but of course there is a lot of value to being a starter or regular player in the rotation, even if you aren’t being nationally recognized among the best in the league at your position.
In looking for key players drafted since 2013, the Seahawks have added Lockett, Frank Clark, Justin Britt, Shaquill Griffin, Jarran Reed, Germain Ifedi, Luke Willson, and Paul Richardson, while Ethan Pocic, Nazair Jones, and Chris Carson showed great promise for becoming regulars last season. (Griffin was also a rookie but clearly a step closer to looking like a key player for a long time.) Players who have since excelled for other teams include Spencer Ware and Alex Collins. Cassius Marsh and Kevin Pierre-Louis have signed contracts with other teams, Christine Michael got plenty of opportunities after he was released, Mark Glowinski started a season in Seattle and is now on the Indianapolis Colts.
Players that the Seahawks are still waiting on include Amara Darboh, C.J. Prosise, Delano Hill, Tedric Thompson, Nick Vannett, Rees Odhiambo, Quinton Jefferson, Joey Hunt, Mike Tyson, and Malik McDowell. Jordan Hill looked great for a small time, and then injuries wiped out any hopes the team or fans had for him.
Players drafted before round five that seem to be total “busts” within the parameters of their draft position? Maybe Michael, Kevin Norwood, Chris Harper, and Terry Poole. We’ll see about McDowell, though his downfall would come via injury unless he’s able to return to the field. Ifedi is not far off from what I’d expect the average 31st overall pick at tackle or guard to be; and development of o-line tends to take 2-3 years to really get going. Surely the Seahawks could have more third round “busts” ahead with Hill, Thompson, Odhiambo, Vannett, Prosise, Darboh, and perhaps this is a lot of where the frustration stems from. A lot of third round picks in the last two years and only Griffin, Jones have proven valuable in that time, but it’s still too early to give up on the others. 2018 will be a significant year for Prosise, Vannett, Odhiambo, while Hill, Thompson, Darboh will have to earn time and win camp battles that they are not expected to win.
Now, compare that to the 49ers last five drafts, where they selected a league-high 54 players:
One of the first things worth noting here is that in comparing the two largest draft classes (2013-2017) between Seattle and San Francisco, that the 49ers have made four selections in the top 20, compared to zero for the Seahawks. They’ve made seven first round picks, compared to one for the Seahawks. Yes, Seattle has made one first round pick in the last five years. If you want to add Percy Harvin and Jimmy Graham into the mix, that’s fine too; those late first round selections turned were at 26 (Xavier Rhodes) and 31 (Stephone Anthony), and the Seahawks got fair value from Graham. You don’t usually get tight ends at pick 31 who break all your franchise records for tight ends in just three years.
Meanwhile, the 49ers have picked at 3 (Solomon Thomas), 7 (DeForest Buckner), 17 (Arik Armstead), 18 (Eric Reid), 28 (Josh Garnett), 30 (Jimmie Ward), and 31 (Reuben Foster).
The status of those players is that we don’t know how good Thomas will be, Buckner seems like a very good defensive lineman, Armstead has been basically invisible, Reid started hot and now is a free agent without a home, Garnett didn’t play last year, Ward is pretty much a nonfactor, and Foster is in trouble this offseason after similar character concerns arose before the draft last year.
That’s the result of seven first round draft picks, including four in the top 18: Buckner, followed by the high hopes and potential of Thomas, and then … who knows. Where would Ifedi, 31st overall, rank among those seven? Third?
(Something that Seattle and San Francisco fans should be able to agree on by now: Trent Baalke is one of the worst GMs of the modern era.)
Out of 54 picks, the 49ers also had just one Pro Bowler with just one Pro Bowl nod: Reid.
The 49ers have also not done that well with their second round picks, including Tank Carradine, Vance McDonald, Jaquiski Tartt, and Carlos Hyde; make the argument for Hyde if you’d like, but a second round RB to me is the new first round RB, and expectations would be set at 1,000+ rushing yards per season. Hyde never topped 1,000 and has only three career games over 100. He may improve next season if the Cleveland Browns’ offensive line improves after the loss of Joe Thomas.
You could also find third round disappointments in San Francisco, just as you might in Seattle: Will Redmond has never played, Marcus Martin was released, Chris Borland retired, Corey Lemonier is gone, Brandon Thomas never played, C.J. Beathard was no Russell Wilson, Eli Harold is fine, and we’ll leave the book out on Ahkello Witherspoon.
How about day three sleepers and nice finds? Quinton Dial started 32 games and then became a backup for the Green Bay Packers. Marcus Cooper was released before his rookie season, and had some nice games for the Kansas City Chiefs. Aaron Lynch had 12.5 sacks in his first two seasons, but just 2.5 in the last two. At the moment, the best are Dontae Johnson, Trenton Brown, and former Seahawk/current free agent Mike Davis.
As for the St. Louis/LA Rams:
Of course, many will cite the Rams as the team with the best draft haul over the last five years. That’s in large part due to stars Aaron Donald and Todd Gurley, plus Jared Goff, who looks like he can at least play the part of a serviceable quarterback in the right system. (I’ll be a lot more willing to swing to the “good” or “bad” side on Goff after one more season, given how atrocious he was as a rookie and how his 2017 stats seemed inflated, but if he has a solid “prove it” year it might not matter.)
But what about after those three?
Alec Ogletree seemed another good get (30th overall) but the Rams felt he wasn’t a fit in Wade Phillips defense and traded him to the New York Giants this year. T.J. McDonald went to the Miami Dolphins, and he’s “okay” at best. Rob Havenstein seems a good right tackle. E.J. Gaines was traded to the Buffalo Bills. Maurice Alexander was released and is now on the Seahawks. Cooper Kupp had a nice rookie season. Lamarcus Joyner has now been franchise tagged, though his value at free safety may not match that of your typical “franchise player.” Perhaps in the future, it will. John Johnson had a good rookie season. Pharoh Cooper is Tyler Lockett without any of the value on offense. Jamon Brown has settled in as the starting right guard.
The Rams remaining non-big three haul then is Cooper, Havenstein, Kupp, Johnson, Brown, and Joyner. Which I’d still cite as pretty good.
They’ve made six first round picks, which includes the good (mentioned) and the bad (Greg Robinson, Tavon Austin) and Ogletree. Their second round haul isn’t that bad with Joyner, Havenstein, and tight end Gerald Everett, who is going into his second season. The third has brought Kupp, Brown, McDonald, and Johnson, while missing on Stedman Bailey, Tre Mason, and Sean Mannion.
Really day three hasn’t brought much, but even getting something can be a win. In this case, that something is Cooper, Tyler Higbee, Alexander, Gaines, and former starting guard Cody Wichmann.
If you asked me who the best-drafting team in the NFC West has been over the last five years — no, wait. If you asked me, which NFC West team has added the most talent through the draft in the last five years, there’s little question that it would be the LA Rams, and that’s a big reason why they won the division last season and are favored for next season. But “best drafting” could be a bit misleading. If the Rams have added high-end talent, nobody would question that the talent is: Goff, Donald, and Gurley. Goff, Donald, and Gurley.
Those players were drafted 1st, 10th, and 13th overall. The Seahawks highest draft pick in the last five years has been 31st, and if they didn’t trade down, it still would’ve only been 26th. If the Rams are “the best drafting team” it has a lot to do with them also being the worst team for much of the last decade. Seattle did not have the option to draft in the top 15, and while LA made a big move to get from 15 to 1, it didn’t come without huge risk and the sacrifice of a first round pick in 2017.
(The Rams picks given up for Goff include 15th overall in 2016, 5th overall in 2017, plus two second round picks and two third round picks.)
Frankly, LA’s trade up for Goff just as easily could have ended up as a trade up for the next Greg Robinson or Tavon Austin. If you just focused on the players drafted outside of the top 20, or outside of the first round, where Seattle is usually drafting, then how do they stack up against the Rams in the last five years? That’s an interesting question to consider: the Rams have taken Kupp, Johnson, Havenstein, Brown, Cooper, Joyner, McDonald, Gaines, Alexander after round one.
The Seahawks have taken Clark, Lockett, Britt, Carson, Griffin, Richardson, Pocic, Ware, Collins, Reed, Jones, Willson after round one.
Make your own decision on that one. How about the Arizona Cardinals?
The Cardinals have made 36 draft picks in the last five years — 18 fewer than the 49ers — with five first round picks. Out of those five players, Jonathan Cooper was the highest taken and he was traded after failing to contribute to the offensive line. Robert Nkemdiche has yet to record a sack. D.J. Humphries has made 18 starts in three seasons. Deone Bucannon’s value has been wildly up and down. We’ll give Haason Reddick more time after an un-noteworthy rookie season.
Arizona’s best picks have been either Tyrann Mathieu, who they just released, or David Johnson, who missed all of last season. Budda Baker, the 36th overall pick last year, had a really nice rookie campaign. Markus Golden had 12.5 sacks in 2016, but then played in just four games in 2017 with no sacks. Earl Watford’s made 20 starts at guard over the last two seasons.
Disappointing day two picks have to include Kareem Martin, Brandon Williams, Troy Niklas, and Chad Williams, though Chad Williams was just a rookie in 2017. (Similar output to Darboh.) None of their day three picks stand out in a significant way, just some decent players to have around, and then a lot who aren’t around anymore. Which I think is a reasonable expectation for any team, and so Arizona simply doesn’t rise above the rest of the league in that regard which is a reason they have failed to remain competitive as their stars have gotten older.
Their misses in the first round are just as responsible for that downfall as their lack of hits in rounds 4-7.
How should we rank these four teams on their 2013-2017 drafts?
I think the LA Rams rank first for obvious reasons. They had a lot of high draft picks and they hit on like half of them, giving the Rams Donald, Gurley, and Goff. I still think there’s risk with the short and long-term value of Gurley and Goff, however, so it’s key for them to not mess around with Donald’s looming contract situation for much longer. LA has also done nicely after the first round, though I think Seattle’s day two and day three are comparable, if not better.
As for the worst, I believe that the 49ers absolutely have to rank in the bottom of the division, if not at the bottom league-wide, and they’ve had 54 picks to prove themselves. This mostly has to do with the Baalke administration, so John Lynch has time to write his own chapter that will get them out of this hole, but San Francisco had a lot of early draft picks and very little to show for it.
That leaves the Seahawks and Cardinals in the middle of those two teams, and I still think Seattle would get the edge over Arizona. Not only have the Cardinals failed to add key players on day three, but they’ve had more opportunities in round one and done almost nothing with those chances as of yet. The Seahawks have found not just depth, but starters like Clark, Griffin, Reed, Britt, Lockett, and the value of that is clearly underrated.
So my NFC West, 2013-2017 draft rankings are so:
And we still have a lot of time left on classes 2016-2017 especially, so maybe things shift more in favor of Seattle as time goes by. Maybe they shift the Seahawks further down the list and perhaps even to the bottom. We don’t know that yet, but as of right now, with everything we know about these five recent drafts, I think Seattle has done no worse than second in their own division, which very easily could put them in the top half of the entire NFL.
If we graded on a curve and weighed in that the Seahawks have done so with zero picks in the top 30, then John Schneider may in fact be underrated. It’s all about perspective.