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The Seahawks haven’t been as bad at drafting in recent years as you think

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NFL: Seattle Seahawks at New England Patriots Greg M. Cooper-USA TODAY Sports

Update 2018/03/21: fractalwalk (in the comments below) and Gihyou (in this fanpost) pointed out a problem with my expected AV calculation, and both reach the conclusion that Seattle’s drafting has been worse than the average NFL team from 2013-2017. Below is my original piece, but please check out the comments section and Gihyou’s fanpost.

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In Kenneth Arthur’s recent piece, he wrote the following [bold added]:

But that is not really the case, and the fallout in the five years since is that some fans believe that Seattle is very bad at drafting because they haven’t found “the next Richard Sherman or Kam Chancellor” on day three of the draft. Except that 2010-2012 was a rare exception to how draft results typically play out, not just for the Seahawks, but for any team in league history.

Since I’ve been somewhat critical of the team’s drafting in the middle rounds, especially, I decided to take a look at how Seattle’s draft picks have panned out relative to expectation.

Seattle drafted 16 players in rounds 3 and 4 in the five drafts from 2013 to 2017, including eight in the most recent two drafts:

Seahawks rounds 3 & 4 draft picks, 2013-2017

Year Round Pick Player On team? SEA AV Exp AV Difference
Year Round Pick Player On team? SEA AV Exp AV Difference
2017 3 90 Shaquill Griffin Yes 4 7.7
2017 3 95 Delano Hill Yes 1 7.3
2017 3 102 Nazair Jones Yes 2 6.7
2017 3 106 Amara Darboh Yes 1 6.4
2017 4 111 Tedric Thompson Yes 1 6
2016 3 90 C.J. Prosise Yes 4 7.7
2016 3 94 Nick Vannett Yes 1 7.4
2016 3 97 Rees Odhiambo Yes 4 7.1
2015 3 69 Tyler Lockett Yes 20 10.1
2015 4 130 Terry Poole No 0 4.6 -4.6
2015 4 134 Mark Glowinski No 9 4.4 4.6
2014 4 108 Cassius Marsh No 4 6.2 -2.2
2014 4 123 Kevin Norwood No 1 5.1 -4.1
2014 4 132 Kevin Pierre-Louis No 3 4.5 -1.5
2013 3 87 Jordan Hill No 6 8 -2
2013 4 123 Chris Harper No 0 5.1 -5.1

The final three columns show the approximate value (AV) each player has accrued with the Seahawks (SEA AV), the expected AV for a player’s first five seasons given draft position as calculated by Chase Stuart on Football Perspective (Exp AV), and the difference between the two, where positive is good and negative is bad. Since expected AV is for a player’s first five seasons, I only calculate the difference for players no longer with the team.

For the 2013-2015 classes, Tyler Lockett has earned a solid return, Poole and Glowinski have canceled each other out, and everyone else has been varying degrees of negative. For those classes as a whole, if Lockett earns more than 5 AV over the next two seasons for Seattle, the team will come out in the positive.

For the 2016 class, Prosise and Odhiambo look to be on track to hit their AV targets, although AV probably overvalues offensive lineman who get playing time but play very poorly (e.g., Glowinski and Odhiambo) and Prosise has spent more time off the field than on it. For the 2017 class, it’s early but Griffin and Jones will probably turn out to be worth their picks.

In the top two rounds, Justin Britt (32 AV versus 10.8 expected through 4 seasons), Frank Clark (13 vs 10.9 through 3), Germain Ifedi (13 vs 17.6 through 2), Jarran Reed (10 vs 13.3 through 2), and Ethan Pocic (5 vs 11.7 through 1) are all probably going to crush their AV targets, with the earlier caveat that for offensive linemen, AV can only measure playing time, not performance. Christine Michael (8 vs 11.1) and Paul Richardson (11 vs 14.1) did not hit their targets, but didn’t miss by much.

In sum, the Seahawks have probably been about average in the middle rounds (rounds 3-4) over the past five drafts. This shouldn’t be surprising because no team can consistently beat the draft:

If teams showed any consistency in their ability to out-draft the market, it would show up in these deviations. But [...] there’s practically no correlation between a team’s picking performance from one draft to the next.

Since 2013, the Seahawks haven’t been great at drafting and they haven’t been bad. They’ve just been boringly average, which is compounded by having low draft capital due to picking at the end of each round and trading away picks for Percy Harvin and Jimmy Graham. Unfortunately, for a team with championship aspirations, average isn’t good enough.