Earlier on Friday, I wrote about how the Seattle Seahawks and New England Patriots both selected running backs late in the first round, bucking a long trend of avoiding any backs in the second half of day one among all 32 NFL teams. I believe this is the two organizations (namely Pete Carroll/John Schneider and Bill Belichick) saying that there is a market inefficiency on running backs going in the late first, and that they’ll get the most value by finding a superstar at that position when the other 30 teams let them slide by because “We don’t do that anymore.”
My guess: This time next year, there will be a run on running backs in the first round. I don’t even know who will be in the 2019 class yet and I’m thinking that teams will start copycatting the Seahawks and Pats’ decision to take Rashaad Penny and Sony Michel.
This has been seen a lot in the last eight years. Not just in teams copying these two head coaches (which of course has been going on much longer for Belichick), but we’ve seen Seattle and New England do a lot of the same things. Especially in the draft, dating back to Carroll/Schneider’s first year in Seattle in 2010.
How close? I’ll let you be the judge. Some of these things likely mean nothing but I’ve also probably left out some things too.
It’s hard to compare the two teams at this stage because the Patriots were the Patriots and the Seahawks were arguably the worst team in the NFL. But here’s what is notable: New England selected Devin McCourty in the first round, signaling a coming emphasis on defensive backs and secondary players that was further pounded home by the decisions made by Carroll. Of course, the Seahawks also took a safety in the first round that year: Earl Thomas. Seattle also drafted tackle Russell Okung, one year before New England picked tackle Nate Solder 17th overall. The Seahawks took Golden Tate in the second, while the Pats selected receiver Taylor Price in the third; Price was waived by New England in 2011, and later signed a contract with Seattle in 2014.
The Pats drafted two tight ends early (Rob Gronkowski, Aaron Hernandez), while the Seahawks took two tight ends late (Anthony McCoy, and conversion project Jameson Konz). An emphasis on tight ends was shared by Seattle though, as they signed Zach Miller and then later traded for Jimmy Graham.
Seattle selected Bruce Irvin 15th overall while the Patriots took a different pass rushing linebacker six picks later: Chandler Jones. Neither player got to their second contract with their teams, even after having various levels of success. In the second round, the Seahawks picked Bobby Wagner, while New England picked Dont’a Hightower 25th overall. Seattle took Russell Wilson in round three, and the Patriots almost exclusively take quarterbacks on day two (Jacoby Brissett, Jimmy Garoppolo, Ryan Mallett). Both teams took two defensive backs in the last two rounds of the draft. Defensive linemen Jaye Howard and Jake Bequette were selected 24 picks apart.
Here’s a weird thing: Between 2010 and 2012 both teams made exactly six trades that included them giving up picks and acquiring players. For New England, that meant adding guys like Branch, Chad Johnson, and Albert Haynesworth. Seattle got Marshawn Lynch and Clinton McDonald in this way. In trades that involved players and swapping picks, the Pats acquired Aqib Talib, while the Hawks got Chris Clemons, Leon Washington, and Charlie Whitehurst, among others.
We also saw that New England is more than willing to get out of the first round entirely, having traded their first round pick in 2011 to the Saints for a second rounder and a future first. We know that the Seahawks also don’t mind not picking on day one, though I’ll say that the Pats have shown a willingness to trade up (Jones, Hightower) that Seattle doesn’t have. Also, the Seahawks traded away 10 players in that three-year period, while the Patriots only traded away two. However, we know that New England is very active in trading away their own players now.
Seattle trades away first rounder for Percy Harvin. We know the Patriots can see eye-to-eye with this move and the Graham one as they traded a first rounder for Brandin Cooks in 2017. The Seahawks picked receiver Chris Harper about 20 picks after New England took receiver Josh Boyce.
The Pats selecting Logan Ryan and Duron Harmon in the third round certainly feels like part of the reaction that the whole league had to the success of Richard Sherman, Earl Thomas, and Kam Chancellor.
Seahawks reportedly trade down only after the Patriots selected Dominique Easley 29th overall. New England took Bryan Stork in the fourth (their center in Super Bowl 49), while Seattle found Justin Britt (current center) in round two. Fourth round pick Cassius Marsh would eventually get traded to the Pats.
Seattle traded their first rounder to the Saints in the Graham deal, but Malcom Brown (Pats pick at 32) certainly feels like a guy the Seahawks would have targeted had they stayed at 31. That’s just me, but I’m throwing it out there. The Seahawks instead took a different defensive lineman in round two: Frank Clark. Both teams took two interior offensive linemen in the fourth round.
While the Patriots only made four picks in this class and the Seahawks were all over it, they did do some things the same: Both drafted a defensive lineman first and an offensive lineman second. New England traded their first rounder for Cooks and I think that if Seattle had felt that there was a receiver out there available who was better than their options in the draft, they would have also pulled the trigger. They just didn’t need to do it last year with Doug Baldwin, Tyler Lockett, and Paul Richardson all under contract and finally all healthy.
The Patriots traded down and out of the first round in 2013.
The Seahawks traded down and out of the first round in 2014.
The Seahawks traded a first round pick for a star pass-catcher in 2013, 2015.
The Patriots traded a first round pick for a star pass-catcher in 2017.
Even if I’m oversimplifying and over-thought some of the similarities, this is not nothing. Early in the draft: Offensive line, defensive line, and receiver/tight end. On Thursday, that took a hard left turn into both teams selecting running back. Don’t be surprised if the two teams mirroring each other continues on days two and three.