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GM John Schneider's Success in the NFL Draft

I ran across an article written by Matt Maiocco of CSN Bay Area recently (thanks to Seahawk Talk for the link), where he and his colleagues did a study of the last five years of the NFL Draft and ranked teams according to their success. Here's how they went about it:

The survey took into consideration, among other factors, where teams selected; how many star players were acquired; booms and busts at the top of the draft; late-round gems; and how the players selected contributed to wins and losses.

They start off the article by making an 'obvious' correlation - teams that win a lot of games draft well (then they ask: or is it teams that draft well win a lot of games?). I'm not sure that either of these assessments are correct, but I'm not here to argue that point. Their study is not necessarily a scientific approach, and there are a lot of variables to account for (like the question of how good a player really is versus how good the team's system and other players make him - which they don't really account for and is difficult if not impossible to quantify in the first place), but it's still an interesting piece if you're a Seahawks fan.

First off, not surprisingly, the Hawks are ranked low on the list, at 25th. Here is the summary:

Number of picks: 37
Still on team: 18
Starters: 7
Best pick: DT Brandon Mebane, 2007
Worst pick: DE Lawrence Jackson, 2008
Overall: Only in the past two seasons did the Seahawks have picks at the top half of the first round. Linebacker Aaron Curry has not made the kind of impact expected of a No. 4 overall selection, but it's much too early to make a judgment on him. Left tackle Russell Okung and safety Earl Thomas were the choices at Nos. 6 and 14 in 2010. Both gave the Seahawks plenty of reason for optimism. Defensive end Lawrence Jackson, taken at No. 28 overall in 2008, was quickly shipped off when his college coach, Pete Carroll, came to the Seahawks. Cornerback Kelly Jennings, 31st overall in 2006, has been a five-year starter. None of the 37 picks during this period has been to a Pro Bowl.

This summary is something most Seahawks fans are painfully aware of. We've had to witness wildly mediocre to terrible drafts for the past 5 years under the guidance of several different GMs. It's sad to realize that in the past 5 years, 37 draft picks have turned into 7 starters. On a league wide scale though, that rate isn't really that bad. In the last 5 years, about 20% of the draft picks taken by all 32 teams have turned into or remained starters for that team going into the start of 2010. Seattle's rate is about 18%, so it's not that far off the league average. Naturally though, each team's starters are different caliber players, so you can't take away much from that statistic. Just be glad you're not the Dallas Cowboys though - their last 5 years of draft picks have accounted for 3 starters going into 2010. Ouch.

Anyway, the silver lining is coming: the clipping does view the Seahawks' 2010 draft as a success, which gives fans hope that John Schneider is putting the Hawks back on track. There's another reason this article can be interesting to a Seahawks fan though.

According to this study, the Green Bay Packers have had the most success the last 5 years of any team in the NFL in their drafting strategies. This is important considering that John Schneider was heavily involved with the the scouting and implementing of these strategies, and is most likely going to apply a similar methodology here in Seattle going forward.

I recognize that this article really proves nothing, but it's encouraging to know that our General Manager has a good pedigree of sound drafting. It supports what we are all hoping, that the guy that was a big part of putting together a team that went from winning 4 games in 2005 to winning the Super Bowl in 2010 can work the same magic for this franchise.

I should note - this article does NOT take into account the drafting of Aaron Rodgers (he was drafted in '05), and makes the idea that the Packers are the best at drafting even more impressive. Though Aaron Rodgers (and any Franchise QB) undoubtedly makes the players around him better, it's good to know that the team Schneider was a part of found key players at every position. Speaking of Aaron Rodgers though (who the Packers did draft), the key position the Hawks need to find is a Quarterback, there's no doubt about it. Our next ten years will depend on if we can find an effective QB in the next year or two- it's a passing league and for the most part, teams without a solid QB have difficulty winning.

Every GM misses on players here and there and John Schneider will be no different - to expect perfection is wildly irrational. But he's made some pretty unconventional yet successful acquisitions and made mostly solid draft choices so far in his stewardship here, so I'm optimistic.