In the shuffle of players before the NFL trade deadline Tuesday, the Seattle Seahawks sent sixth-year cornerback Jeremy Lane and draft picks to the Houston Texans for left tackle Duane Brown. While most of the focus in Seattle is rightly on the new acquisition Brown and what this means for the Seahawks going forward, the loss of Lane represents an inevitable erosion of one of the league’s greatest draft classes of all time.
Seattle famously struck diamonds finding Russell WIlson in the third round of that draft, but also notably selected two-time All Pro middle linebacker Bobby Wagner in the second round. Those two players have generated extraordinary value from their draft positions, totaling a combined 150 approximate value points in their first five years.
But the Seahawks also chose eight other players in 2012, including first round pick Bruce Irvin and future starters in Seattle J.R. Sweezy and Lane in the sixth and seventh rounds. The Seahawks also got three years out of Robert Turbin as Marshawn Lynch’s backup from 2012 to 2014, who was taken in the fourth round. Another fourth rounder, Jaye Howard, and fifth round selection Korey Toomer have been contributors elsewhere in the league.
Seattle’s huge influx of talent from the 2012 draft paved the way for the Seahawks Super Bowl title one year later. The franchise hasn’t benefited from such excellent picks all at once before or since, and the draft has been noteworthy for producing easily the most value above expectation of any draft from 2012 to 2016. In aggregate, according to Pro Football Reference metrics tabulated by For the Win, the class was worth +13.7 AV more than predicted by draft position—more than twice as good as the next best overall class in that study (2013 Green Bay Packers). The rating elevates the organization’s five-year score into the best in the league almost by itself.
Seattle did not pick up Irvin’s fifth-year option before 2015 and Irvin signed with the Oakland Raiders the following offseason. Similarly Sweezy left in free agency for the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. Apart from Wagner and Wilson, Lane was the only player from the class to gain a second contract with the Seahawks but had underperformed expectations in 2016 and been hurt most of 2017. Though not technically drafted, Seattle also added Jermaine Kearse in post-draft free agency in 2012, and signed him to an extension at the same time as Lane in 2016. The Seahawks traded Kearse to the New York Jets as part of the deal for Sheldon Richardson right before September cuts. Now with the opportunity to add Brown, Lane’s time with the club has also run out.
As I wrote at the start of the season, even without subsequent drafts being so productive Seattle has come to rely more and more on its recent additions and developmental players for the future—as to be expected in a league with such brief careers and player peaks. But the historic class lives on in the Seahawks’ offensive and defensive captains and barring a severe disbanding of the team, those two premier performers will continue to lead the franchise for many more contracts—and hopefully championships—to come.