During John Schneider and Pete Carroll’s tenure with the franchise, the Seattle Seahawks have never traded up in the first round. In fact, they haven’t used their original first round pick since 2011, trading down or trading it for a player in each year since.
So why then would the Seahawks consider trading up this time, let alone up by a huge margin? An opportunity like the one to make a huge jump rarely exists but the writing is on the wall that it might be here now.
First off, you need to have teams in the top 10 that are looking to trade down. Not one or two teams, but the majority of them. This increases supply and lessens demand. (I’m not a business major so I’m hoping that is the correct use of that term.) Well, a bunch of the teams in the top 10 want to trade down. Perhaps all of them.
At least one report says that teams from 2-7 are all supposedly looking to trade down. The Bills are also known to be wanting to trade down at 10, and the Browns (1 and 12) are constantly looking to be further down in the draft. That’s one of the reasons that a trade up from the 20s into the top 10 might be less costly than many other years, but it’s not the only reason.
The second thing is the class itself.
While Myles Garrett can be considered a generational talent at defensive end, most of the other prospects are rather closely tied together. The drop-off from 10 to 26 is considered slight, if it even exists with any great clarity. Rob Staton lists only four players who truly stand out above the next 30 or so: Garrett, Leonard Fournette, Solomon Thomas, and O.J. Howard.
If you’re a team in the top 10, and those players are off the board or don’t fit your needs, you might be looking at pick 26 and thinking that you can still get a player with the same grade you could get at your current selection, plus add some future value. That doesn’t happen in most drafts, but it does seem plausible in this class.
Is there precedent for this kind of move up? Yes, and the results should calm you from thinking Seattle has to give up the world to move up 15-20 spots.
Biggest trade ups into top 9 recently:
2012: 14 to 6. Cowboys send 14, 45 to Rams for pick 6.
2011: 26 to 6. Falcons send 26, 59, 118, 124, future first to Browns for pick 6.
2009: 17 to 5. Jets send 17, 52, three players to Browns for pick 5.
2008: 26 to 8. Jags send 26, 71, 89, 125 to Ravens for pick 8.
Now, I included the Rams deal because it’s the most recent and I figured people might bring it up anyway because of that. But they traded up to number one, not number six. That’s a huge difference. The drop-off from one to six is huge in most drafts, but especially this year. The Seahawks are not moving up from 26 to one.
The best examples are of course 2008 and 2011. In both cases, a team was moving up from pick 26 (same as what Seattle possesses) and in both cases they moved into the top eight.
The Falcons infamous move up for Julio Jones in 2011 cost them pick 26, their second round pick, two mid-round picks, and a future first. That is costly, but Jones has proven to be worth it. As you’d expect, Cleveland made nothing of their return on the deal, and at least Atlanta could feel comfortable that Jones was an exceptional talent at receiver.
Three years earlier, a very similar move happened, but at a much lower cost. Jacksonville sent a first, two thirds, and a fourth over the Baltimore so they could select Derrick Harvey. Well, Harvey did not turn out in the same way that Jones did, but 2008’s class may be a fair comp for 2017’s. The players in the back half of the first round included Aqib Talib, Joe Flacco, Chris Johnson, Duane Brown — the Ravens may have not seen a huge talent drop-off, so instead they moved down, only to eventually move back up for Flacco. Consider that this could also be a year where a team looking for a QB could safely move into the 20s and then watch the QB class unfold from behind (with the opportunity to trade up) rather than wonder if you pulled the trigger too soon. It’s possible.
Look at a team like the Buffalo Bills at 10.
The Bills supposedly still want a quarterback to compete with Tyrod Taylor. They have enough needs that there probably won’t be a single player they “must have” at 10 and instead may be satisfied with the selections at 26, as long as they’re getting some extra picks in return. They are actively making the phone calls to try and trade down already. They’ve traded a first round pick twice in the last four years. They don’t currently have a fourth round pick.
A move up like that would not necessarily be that devastating for the Seahawks.
According to FootballPerspective’s updated trade value chart, it could be done simply by throwing in Seattle’s 90th overall pick in round three — I don’t agree with this. But I do think it provides a good point, which is that trade ups often cost less than you assume they would cost. In a class like this one, I could see the Seahawks or any team, getting to make such a jump at the cost of a second rounder or two thirds. What about an even bigger jump?
Let’s say that John Schneider is keen on even splashier move, like talking with the Tennessee Titans, who hold the Rams’ old pick at number five. The Titans would like to move down, they love adding more picks, and they don’t have a second rounder. If Tennessee isn’t in love with a player at five, what could a move down to 26 look like? This would be much costlier for Seattle and certainly includes the 58th overall pick. But it may look more similar to the 2008 deal than the 2011 deal for Julio.
Picks 26, 58, 90, and 106 could potentially get it done. The big question that I have not addressed yet: Why would the Seahawks do this?
We already know that Schneider and Carroll are pick-hounds, wanting to add quantity because they believe they are better than anyone else at finding quality. "More is better, depending on the draft," Schneider said on Monday. "It changes the way we try to strategize because you're not picking all the way through the draft."
They’d rather have 15 rookies who were ready to compete than eight rookies that included one hot-shot young gun. Schneider also said they’ve done a lot of homework on the players at the top of the draft, including the QBs, but says it’s only so they’re more aware of what team needs could be at the top of round two. However, perhaps along the line they did fall for a prospect. The narrative potentially changes after two early exits in the playoffs, both of which were mostly non-competitive losses. There may be only a handful of transcendent talents in the draft, however that doesn’t mean that Carroll and Schneider are necessarily okay going another year without one. They wouldn’t be jumping up into the top 10 just to get a player who was on par with what they could get at 26. So who would they be looking for?
Garrett and Thomas look like they’ll be gone in the top three, so they’re likely out of Seattle’s range. Fournette could look fantastic with the Seahawks, but he could also be gone very early and would not be filling a very big need at this point. Of the previously mentioned four, Howard makes the most sense. He’s one of the most gifted prospects at tight end that we’ve ever seen. The team does not hide their desire to always have an elite player at tight end, first trying with Zach Miller and then going for Jimmy Graham. Howard could have the spotlight taken off of him for year one, and then Seattle could comfortably let Graham and his $10 million cap hit leave in 2018, likely receiving a third round comp in return.
The Titans are rumored to be locked in on either Howard or Marshon Lattimore at number five, but they could trade down, or end up passing on both. Either way, Howard or Lattimore, the draft’s top cornerback, likely make it out of the top five.
The Seahawks could also target a player outside of the top four listed earlier, like Lattimore, Garett Bolles, Forrest Lamp, or Jonathan Allen. Maybe they’d seem some new future at safety with Jamal Adams or Malik Hooker. Allen comes with concerns about his shoulder, but he could also end up being the best pass rusher in this draft and if he falls out of the top eight, a potential trade-up target. Rob wrote about why Allen could be a target here.
In general, I don’t think Schneider is usually on the phones looking to move up. I think him and Carroll are well aware that teams that trade up usually end up with the short end of the stick. I think it takes a perfect set of circumstances for a team to make a huge trade up and have it be a good decision from the onset. And I think that this could be a year where those circumstances do align.
First we need to see how the top four unfolds. Then who knows. The Seahawks have been aggressive in the past, just not in the first round. If they find that they can do it without mortgaging a ton in 2018 value — or if they happen to execute a Richard Sherman trade — then this might be the year for it.