It started for the Seahawks as you might expect; with a mistake. Well, it could be too harsh to call Steve Niehaus a mistake, but unfortunate circumstances ruined the career of Seattle's first ever draft pick. And that is exactly what you might expect.
The Seahawks first draft was in 1976, and they shared the honor of expansion with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. Fate would have it that Tampa got the first pick, and they selected Hall of Fame defensive end Lee Roy Selmon, a highly-effective pass rusher that passed away in 2011. Seattle then took Nieuhaus, but we will get back to that in a moment.
I'm not old enough to remember or even be alive for the moments I am talking about, I'm not 100 lol, but draft history is pretty subjective. The Saints took 3-time Pro Bowl running back Chuck Muncie with the third overall pick. With the fourth pick, the Chargers took Joe Washington, a good running back that had an outstanding Pro Bowl season in 1979 with the Colts. And as you would expect this theme to continue, the Patriots selected Hall of Fame defensive back Mike Haynes with the fifth pick of the draft. There were of course a smattering of good and bad selections throughout the 1976 NFL draft, but none were as disappointing as Niehaus. The bitterness of our fandom wasted no time in establishing itself.
But it's not like this was an Aaron Curry pick. Niehaus could have been as good as anyone taken that year. 'Twas Beauty killed the Beast. Or like, knee injuries.
Niehaus has been credited with 90 tackles and 9.5 sacks in 1976, winning the NFC Defensive Rookie of the Year honors. That's some pretty serious shit, and they only played 14 games back then. But for all intents and purposes, that was his entire career. He played in only a handful more games because of injury and is long since forgotten. I was only really able to find this interview he did with Seahawks.com last year, in which he makes Ryan Lochte sound like Dostoyevsky:
The best book I’ve ever read: "Not a big reader. ‘Moby Dick.’ No, I’m teasing. I don’t remember the name of it, but it was a philosophy book."
I am assuming that Niehaus got his degree when he was at Notre Dame.
Niehaus was not a bad draft pick, he was just an unfortunate one, though it is hard not to imagine what life would be like if fate had switched the draft picks for Tampa and Seattle. Would it have even mattered at all, would they have still taken Niehaus or would it be the Hall of Famer? Would Selmon have still stayed healthy and made the Hall of Fame or was it always going to be bad news for whoever the Seahawks made their first ever draft pick? The bitterness would say "Yes", but we will never truly know.
We can't blame it all on Niehaus though, the expansion Hawks would trudge through a phenomenal 17 rounds and 25 draft picks including three in the second, three in the third, three in the fourth, and three in the fifth. To build a new team worth watching, the expansion teams were handed as many picks as they could take. What would they do with them?
Seattle took linebacker Sammy Green with their next pick, a four-year starter for the Seahawks and that's it. Their best pick was running back Sherman Smith, taken 58th overall, but that would be the end of notable players and the beginning of just a lot of notable names. Such as:
- Steve Raible with the 59th pick.
- Seattle took their punter (Rick Engles) and kicker (Don Bitterlich) in the third round, and yet neither was still with the team by 1978.
- It wasn't until after fulfilling the special teams that they took quarterback Steve Myer in the fourth round. He made a handful of starts but of course undrafted free agent Jim Zorn was the first player to take on that role as starter.
- The Seahawks took a player named Randy Johnson.
- A player named Lodie Dixon.
- A player named Bob Bos.
- A player named Andy Reid.
- A player named... JARVIS BLINKS!
- And their last ever pick in their first ever draft was Huskies quarterback Chris Rowland, a guy that had lost his job to Warren Moon before winning it back. Of course, when you are the 461st pick in the NFL draft, you're almost certainly headed towards the work force (as of 2003, Rowland ran a Seattle-based seafood business) and not the football field, which is why it is nice that in 1977 there were only twelve rounds.
And so would go the majority of Seahawks draft picks for years. They wound up with a handful of useful players in 1976, but they actually did not draft their first Pro Bowl player until Jacob Green in 1980. They traded the number two overall pick in 1977 to the Dallas Cowboys in exchange for four picks. Dallas selected Hall of Fame running back Tony Dorsett, Seattle filled out some roster spots and finished 9-7 over the next two years. This kept them from those "upper echelon" picks you would expect to turn into stars, but actually the Seahawks did pretty good on finding talent remaining competitive.
Kenny Easley in 1981, Jeff Bryant in 1982, the birth of Kenneth Arthur later that year, Curt Warner in 1983, and Seattle was a pretty good team in 1984 and some years after. And so it was that we wind up with the team we have today that after years of being bad, years of being good, and many years of simply being mediocre, that we've wound up with the drafts picks on the roster we currently have today and are about to have in ten days or so.
I compiled a spreadsheet of every single draft pick that the Seahawks have made up to this point. There are 360 names on it. From Neihaus to Greg Scruggs, here are some more interesting tidbits.
- Seattle has drafted as many players out of Alabama (3) as they have out of Appalachian State.
- They have drafted 10 players from the University of Washington, Jerramy Stevens being the highest selection (28th) and most recent (2002).
- They have drafted five Cougs, Marcus Trufant being the highest (11th) and most recent (2003).
- Their favorite destination is The U, taking 12 players from Miami, including Cortez Kennedy and Brian Blades.
- The Seahawks have made 16 top 10 draft picks:
Steve Niehaus (2)
Rick Mirer (2)
Cortez Kennedy (3)
Shawn Springs (3)
Curt Warner (3)
Kenny Easley (4)
Aaron Curry (4)
Jeff Bryant (6)
Walter Jones (6)
Russell Okung (6)
Joey Galloway (8)
Sam Adams (8)
Keith Simpson (9)
Koren Robinson (9)
Jacob Green (10)
Ray Roberts (10)
- Curry is almost certainly is the worst.
- The Seahawks have drafted 30 players that have made a Pro Bowl (8.3% of all picks) and 14 of those players were taken in the first round.
- Very best value picks: Chris Warren (89th in 1990), Michael Sinclair (155th in 1991), Michael Bates (5-time Pro Bowl kick returner for Panthers, 150th in 1992), Fredd Young (76th in 1984), and Michael McCrary (170th in 1993). With of course some current players showing great late round value.
- The most career passing touchdowns from any player that was drafted by the Seahawks is Rick Mirer with 50, followed by Seneca Wallace with 31, and then Russell Wilson. Wilson could top that list before the end of 2013.
- In their entire history, the Seahawks have drafted 16 quarterbacks. Only two of them were in the first round, Mirer and Dan McGwire. They have never taken one in the second round. They have drafted more quarterbacks after the seventh round than they have before the fourth round.
- Seattle has only spent three first round picks on a running back, and I'm including John L Williams.
- Stevens is the only tight end they have ever drafted in the first round.
- Galloway and Robinson are the only wide receivers in the first round.
- They have drafted seven tackles in the first round.
- Seattle hasn't drafted a player from UCLA since 1993.
- Jarvis Blinks
Now that I have completed what I have to say, I hope you have a little more interesting Seahawks draft info at your disposal. I am sure that none of it is useless. It all started with a player who had so much promise but a career that was cut short in a Blinks of an eye. It will continue next weekend and my list grows a wee bit longer. If you have any questions about the Seattle draft history, please shoot it in the comments and I will do my best to be your target. This could be a fun game to play!
But you also must agree to follow me on Twitter
(After I've had the fun of withholding the fruits of my labor, I will release a Google Doc for you to play with as well. But let me hold onto it and cherish it for a little while.)