In the last year or so I’ve been very critical of some opposing team’s GMs, specifically Ted Thompson of the Green Bay Packers and Trent Baalke of the San Francisco 49ers. While Thompson’s job seems safe, there are rumors that Baalke won’t be calling shots for that NFC West team much longer, and the reason revolves around a total inability to make good picks in the draft for the vast majority of his tenure.
It’s time to start asking the question of whether or not the Seattle Seahawks are just as guilty of that in the last four years.
In a recent article for ESPN Insider, ProFootballFocus ranked the Seahawks as having the fourth-least productive rookie class in 2016. I guess “grades” came into play somewhat for PFF’s rankings, but let’s just set that aside and focus instead on what could have led them to that conclusion.
As you probably know, Seattle has a shockingly-large rookie class for a team that has been so successful since 2012, with roughly one-in-five players on the final roster being in their first year. This includes a draft class of 10 players, though two of those guys — Kenny Lawler, Zac Brooks -- were cut, and both were seventh rounders, so it’s not a huge loss at that point. However, by now only three rookies can be considered regulars for the Seahawks: first round pick Germain Ifedi at right guard, second round pick Jarran Reed is a rotational player at defensive tackle, and undrafted free agent George Fant is the new starting left tackle.
Two more players in the rookie class have played sparingly because of injuries, third round pick C.J. Prosise and fifth round pick Quentin Jefferson, who has been on IR since Week 5; up that point however, Jefferson had barely played, registering one assisted tackle.
There are others who contribute, of course.
Undrafted free agent receiver Tanner McEvoy is a fan favorite with 124 yards and two touchdowns. He seems to be a nice pickup that could develop next season, or even may play a big role in the next two months. Others, like Trevone Boykin, Troymaine Pope, DeAndre Elliott, Nick Vannett, Rees Odhiambo, Joey Hunt, and Tyvis Powell are around, but to say that they’ve “contributed significantly” would be a bridge too far, except for maybe Boykin because QB is a really important job and he’s done okay in the two times he’s been called upon.
That being said, I think it’s totally fair to say that of all the rookies on Seattle’s roster, there’s Ifedi, Fant, Reed, Prosise, and then everyone else. That doesn’t mean that the others don’t have bright futures, we’re just talking about signifiant contributions to the team in 2016. That’s it.
And so building off of those four players, is it fair to say that Ifedi and Fant have shown their experience and played inconsistently? Sure. Or that Prosise has been amazing, but hasn’t played enough (six games, 47 touches) to be considered as an ultra-valuable contributor to the whole season? Yes. At best, Reed may stand alone, but even then, the value of a run-stuffing defensive tackle can’t be measured as having the same effect as a pass-rusher, or a left tackle, or a cornerback, etc. That’s part of the reason that Reed, who everyone know was an elite, run-stuffing defensive tackle, went in the middle of the second round.
While I think everyone should be happy and satisfied with the Seahawks first three picks — Ifedi, Reed, Prosise — there’s still plenty to be concerned with after that. Like that third round picks Odhiambo and Vannett aren’t doing much. Injuries or development aside, it’s probably easy to forget that these were day two picks only a handful of months ago.
In the fifth round, Jefferson has been out for most of the year, and Collins is someone who I’ve been recently mulling over as a guy that needs a pretty significant 2017 training camp just to make the roster next season -- and that’s even if he makes it that far. Hunt is around, but now Justin Britt seems to be set in stone as the center for awhile, making the need much different than it was when they took an undersized center in the sixth round. Lawler has been on the practice squad all year but seeing him on gameday in the future still seems like a stretch.
Now look at some of those picks as compared to others who were available and it gets a little more sad.
John Schneider traded back into the fifth round and selected Jefferson, but not running back Jordan Howard out of Indiana. Howard is already being bandied about as perhaps the steal of the draft, averaging 5.0 per carry with the Chicago Bears with five 100-yard games and nearing 1,000 yards for the season. If that seems like I’m cherrypicking good players at random positions just because I can, that doesn’t sound fair to me; afterall, Seattle took three running backs in the draft, including Collins, who they picked later in the same round.
Instead they could have picked Howard and then with their other fifth rounder, literally anyone but Collins. Maybe even Jefferson.
The reason that I’m holding Schneider to a higher standard in these situations, to miss out on Howard in favor of just getting Collins later on, is that we’ve become accustomed to holding the Seahawks to a higher standard of drafting since 2010. This example appears to be a blatant miss on their parts, and it’s fair to ask, “Why did you miss?”
Especially since it’s not the only miss.
We’re going to go back another year, but first I’ll add in that the team also has Nolan Frese as the rookie long-snapper, Kelvin Taylor as a rookie running back making his Seattle debut on Thursday, Tre Madden, Joe Sommers, and Tylor Harris on IR, plus Kache Palacio and Shanell Jenkins on the practice squad, just so we’re being thorough.
The 2016 rookie class for the Seahawks has to be considered underwhelming so far, but definitely far from finished as we’d be stupid to not give them more time to develop. Other Seattle classes have had said time to develop though, and time is not doing them many favors.
In 2015, the Seahawks drafted nine players. Of those, I think you can consider the whole class a “win” because of Frank Clark, Tyler Lockett, Mark Glowinski, and the trade for Jimmy Graham. Furthermore, undrafted free agent Thomas Rawls is probably the best of the bunch, meaning that of course Schneider and Pete Carroll are better at what they do then most. That being said, it’s disturbing to see what’s already happened to the rest of the class.
After Clark and Lockett, five of Seattle’s last six picks are no longer even with the team; remember, this draft was only a year and a half ago. They picked Terry Poole ahead of Glowinski, and he was cut before the start of last season, then again this year. Fifth round pick Tye Smith is now with the Redskins. Sixth round pick Obum Gwachum is with the Saints. Sixth round pick Kristjan Sokoli is with the Colts, and is back to playing defense after the Seahawks tried to convert him to offensive line, quite unsuccessfully. Seventh round pick Ryan Murphy is a free agent.
Seattle’s rewards in 2015 have had huge payoffs, so that’s good, but outside of picking in the top 70, they failed really hard with each selection except for Glowinski. (Putting a lot of pressure on Glowinski now to succeed at left guard, which is still undetermined.)
Now as much as some of you may hate it, I’m going to talk about some of the players they didn’t pick; interior offensive lineman Shaq Mason (Patriots) and Max Garcia (Broncos) who went between Poole and Glow; defensive tackle Grady Jarrett (Falcons), wide receiver Stefon Diggs (Vikings), running back Jay Ajayi (Dolphins) and defensive tackle David Parry (Colts) who went shortly after Glow; quarterback Trevor Siemian (Broncos) who went after Murphy.
Of course I am nitpicking somewhat, but we should still ask the question: What did they like about the players they picked (who are all gone) and not about the players they didn’t (who probably wouldn’t be and could be helping this season)? Where is Schneider and Pete going wrong in those moments? Because it’s not a one-year or two-year sample size.
The 2014 class is nearly a total disaster, if not for the resurgence of Britt as a center. With that change, they’ve created a potential Pro Bowl player in the group, but not much else.
Second round pick Paul Richardson has amassed 517 yards in three seasons with plenty of time missed due to injuries, a concern that existed before the draft. Like Collins, I have to wonder if he’ll survive 2017 training camp. Then they took Britt. Then it was Cassius Marsh, an exceptional special teams player but thus far not much else, and you should be able to find great ST guys in late rounds and free agency. Kevin Norwood didn’t make it to his rookie season with Seattle, getting traded to Carolina before Week 1. Kevin Pierre-Louis falls somewhere near but below Marsh in value. Jimmy Staten is gone, now with the Bears. Garrett Scott never made it to the NFL. Eric Pinkins was released again this year, currently with the Giants. Kiero Small also didn’t make the team and is out of the NFL.
Out of nine selections, five are gone — all five contributed basically zero to the Seahawks (Norwood was worth more in trade than anyone else was on the field) — their top pick is on thin ice, two others play special teams, and the good player was awful for two seasons. And like Reed, there’s a limit to a center’s value in the same way there is to a run-stuffing defensive tackle. We like to have him on Seattle’s roster, but that position wouldn’t be my first choice.
It’s a draft that Rob Staton talks about a lot because of how highly he regarded two players that clearly the Seahawks didn’t agree on: Joel Bitonio and Jarvis Landry. Seattle could have stayed where they are and taken Bitonio (an exceptional guard for the Browns, albeit one on IR since Week 5), or they could have moved down like they did and picked Landry, one of the most productive receivers in the NFL since the day he was drafted. Maybe they could have even figured out a way to have both of them and Britt. Instead, they have Richardson, and not Jordan Matthews, Marqise Lee, Landry, Davante Adams, or Allen Robinson — ALL OF WHOM WENT IN THE SECOND ROUND THAT YEAR.
I have to say it again: Where’s the high level of scouting and draft knowledge by this front office that prevents this mistake? Why Richardson and not several receivers who look great now and may have not been injury prone?
And finally, the unmitigated disaster of 2013.
There were 11 picks by the Seahawks that year and only one of them remains: Luke Willson, a role player on his best day, injured or dropping a key pass on his worst.
The rest include Christine Michael, Jordan Hill, Chris Harper, Jesse Williams, Tharold Simon, Spencer Ware, Ryan Seymour, Ty Powell, Jared Smith, and Michael Bowie.
The best of the bunch, Ware, has done 99.9% of his blossoming for the Kansas City Chiefs after getting little opportunity with Seattle. (There used to be a time when it seemed like there was no way a player like Ware would lose in a competition to a player like Michael, regardless of where they were drafted. Right?) Hill flashed potential but like Richardson, couldn’t do it for long enough periods of time before getting injured for anyone to get very excited about the times when he was healthy. Simon was more myth than reality. Bowie gave us hope for the offensive line for about two seconds before getting waived like a day later.
And nobody will soon forget that the first rounder that season went to the Vikings in exchange for Percy Harvin and a lot of headaches.
Instead of Harvin, Seattle could have potentially had DeAndre Hopkins. Or Travis Frederick. Or Zach Ertz. Or Kawann Short. Or Le’Veon Bell, who went about 15 picks ahead of Michael. They took Michael over Travis Kelce and Tyrann Mathieu and Keenan Allen. They took Hill over Brandon Williams, one of the most underrated defensive tackles in the NFL.
This isn’t revisionist thinking. This isn’t rosterbation. This isn’t alternative history. This is simply a question like all the other questions I’ve had in this post so far, which is, “What the fuck happened?”
What the fuck happened to the team from 2010-2012 that could almost do no wrong in the draft? What the fuck happened to not overlooking the great players like Kam Chancellor, Richard Sherman, Bobby Wagner, KJ Wright, and Russell Wilson that everyone else overlooked? What the fuck happened to being the best drafting team in the league to one who has made 38 picks in the last four years and thus far the 2016 rookie class is doing very little while 20 of the 28 players they picked from 2013-2015 are already gone?
Out of 38 picks, they’ve built a “new core” that revolves around Lockett, Clark, Reed, Ifedi, Prosise, Britt, Glowinski, and who knows what else. Add in UDFAs like Rawls, maybe Fant (see: Bowie, Michael or Bailey, Alvin), maybe Boykin, and there’s a little bit more but not much and maybe not anything. And how much confidence do you want to invest in Prosise after seeing what’s happened to Richardson? Or the fact that four of the players I just mentioned comprise one of the worst offensive lines in football? Or that we’re still waiting to see if/when Lockett reaches his full potential and stays healthy and that Clark will always have a dark cloud hanging above his head.
What the fuck happened?
This is a front office that has built this team up maybe only a little more than they’ve made themselves vulnerable to the inconsistent efforts we’ve seen this season. And totally susceptible to living up to the mediocrity of a team ranked 11th in DVOA rather than the one that finished first in DVOA in each of the previous four seasons.
Seattle’s roster is still as good as any because of the fact that their best eight or nine players are really great and under contract for at least another season or two, in many cases three-plus, but there has to be concern that if the 2016 and 2017 classes aren’t bangers, the window of opportunity could close faster than most expected, including myself. They need to do a better job of drafting, not just on day one and two, but especially on day three.
That’s where the Seahawks’ mistakes have made them a very beatable team.