As you may have known, the Seattle Seahawks have been loading up on 2013 first round picks in the last year - Luke Joeckel, Dion Jordan, Barkevious Mingo, Sheldon Richardson, and Eddie Lacy chief among them. Of course, Seattle was able to acquire these players because they fell short of expectations with their original teams, either immediately or just before joining the Seahawks. Only Jordan remains from last year, while Mingo is just getting started.
It seems clear then that even if a prospect fails out of the gate, Pete Carroll and John Schneider will remain among those personnel people who believe that talent still exists within these players somewhere and that a realization of said talent could be just on the horizon. That did not happen with Joeckel or Lacy, but Jordan is one of the main reasons for optimism on the defensive line in 2018, just as three key starters from last season make their respective exits.
Could the Seahawks find similar value in the draft that happened two years later? Many of those first round picks have already shuffled around, with a few more who seem certain to find new homes within the next 11 months.
CBS Sports’ Joel Corry wrote about the players who were first round picks in 2015 with the deadline for fifth-year options fast approaching. And even if a team does exercise its fifth-year option on that player, they could still cut bait at no loss if their 2018 season is deemed a disappointment. But even if it is, that doesn’t mean that there isn’t hope that a change of scenery couldn’t be the key to unlock that potential.
Or at least, some of it.
The Buffalo Bills moved on from Sammy Watkins after three seasons and while still underwhelmed for the LA Rams after the trade, he had eight touchdowns and signed a massive contract with the Kansas City Chiefs last month. The Philadelphia Eagles gave up hope that Marcus Smith would be a necessary player on their defense last year and while his future in the NFL is still up for debate, Seattle sees some value in having him around after playing in 14 games for them in 2017.
Speaking of the 2014 draft, 11 first round talents have already changed teams: Greg Robinson, Watkins (x2), Justin Gilbert, Eric Ebron, Brandin Cooks (x2), Calvin Pryor, Johnny Manziel, Smith, Kelvin Benjamin, Dominique Easley, and Teddy Bridgewater. Manziel never technically “changed teams” because he’s never played for anyone else besides the Cleveland Browns. Robinson, Gilbert, and Pryor are having as difficult a time finding work as Manziel is. So even drafting in the first round remains a tricky proposition that you’ll find a player who can even make it to the fifth year with the same franchise.
And that’s certainly the case for 2015 also.
We can scratch off the idea that the top two picks will be released, at least until after 2018 happens - The Tampa Bay Bucs and Tennessee Titans don’t plan to move on from Jameis Winston or Marcus Mariota at this time. I think Winston will be just fine, but Mariota I’d be more concerned about. With rushing he had 18 touchdowns in 15 games, and the Titans went 1-4 when he failed to throw for a touchdown; the only win was a 12-9 victory over the 0-16 Browns. He’ll need to be way more productive with the new coaching staff or he risks joining Vince Young and Jake Locker in whatever hallway of Tennessee those guys are featured in.
Dante Fowler becomes the first big question mark as far as his availability now and in 2019. Fowler was the third overall pick and then he missed all of his rookie season. He had 8 sacks last year as part of the Jacksonville Jaguars’ insane defensive line rotation, but can they afford to keep him as only a rotational player after losing snaps to Yannick Ngakoue? Fowler was recruited at Florida by ... Dan Quinn. Giving him a connection to the Atlanta Falcons but also suggesting a shared opinion by colleagues perhaps that would make the Seahawks a potentially interested party. Fowler had a SPARQ of 118.7 in 2015, which is not bad, but well behind some of the “elite” guys that year like Vic Beasley and Frank Clark.
Lets group some of the rest of the guys before moving on.
Almost Certainly Won’t Hit Free Agency In 2019
Winston, Mariota, Amari Cooper, Brandon Scherff, Leonard Williams, Vic Beasley, Todd Gurley, Trae Waynes, Andrus Peat, Marcus Peters, Malcom Brown
These are 11 players I’d feel really safe about. More than 11 will remain with their current teams, but these are the top 11 most-safe picks, I think.
Likely Won’t Hit Free Agency In 2019, But More To Prove
Nelson Agholor, Eagles
I think people view this as a “lock” but Agholor had 648 yards total in his first two seasons and still just produced 768 yards in 2017. Certainly trending upwards but his price tag in 2019 would be $9.3 million on the option and that’ll at least require one more season that trends upwards.
DeVante Parker, Dolphins
It’s a $9.3 million question for a receiver who had 670 yards and one touchdown last year. Remember that the Bills were confident in walking away from Watkins, who cost them a lot more (two first rounders, including a top-five pick) and was a lot more productive than Parker has been so far.
Melvin Gordon, Chargers
The price tag would be $5.6 million on the fifth year. That’s one of the highest-paid marks for any RB in the NFL today, but also manageable if that RB is elite. Gordon has been very good, cutting down from six fumbles as a rookie to just one last year. From zero touchdowns in year one to 24 in the last two seasons. He likely stays but I’m always more cautious with running backs.
Bud Dupree, Steelers
As a linebacker, he’d require a hit of $9.2 million in 2019. That’s steep for a guy maybe only just starting to find his NFL footing (40 tackles, six sacks last year) so it’s just a matter of whether he not he fully grasps that footing next season or if he slips.
Shane Ray, Broncos
Same deal. Ray had eight sacks in 2016 but was injured and had just one sack in eight games last year. Denver won’t pay him $9.2 million if he doesn’t produce next year.
D.J. Humphries, Cardinals
Humphries may benefit from the fact that he plays left tackle and the Cardinals are desperate for good players. He missed all but five games last season and in total has 18 starts in three years, but Humphries only needs to be a decent left tackle to potentially lock down a long-term extension in the next year. I have a feeling Arizona is going to be picking in the top five in 2019, so they will look to hold onto anything they can that seems worth holding onto.
Shaq Thompson, Panthers
He’s been okay, a solid-yet-unspectacular linebacker. Thomas Davis is nearing the end of his career and Thompson is turning just 24 on Saturday. It’s $9.2 million they could be willing to spend to ensure some continuity on defense as some other pieces change teams. Again, we need to see how his 2018 goes, but the option is likely to be exercised.
They Could Get The Option, But Less Likely To Earn 2019 Season On It
Ereck Flowers, Giants
It would be a $12.5 million price tag and the Giants are paying Nate Solder $17 million in 2019 to not be Ereck Flowers, but this is still their current starting right tackle. And if Flowers excels his progress on the right side with some new coaching, it’ll be way more than $12.5 million to retain him. Flowers is not a great player but he has the advantage of being an offensive lineman with some draft pedigree, and that’s paid off huge for guys like Matt Kalil despite underwhelming play on their rookie deals.
Danny Shelton, Patriots
He’ll definitely be playing for New England in 2018, but I’m not sure they want to pick up an option and pay him and Brown on their fifth-year options in 2019. That’d be a total of $14.2 million for two defensive tackles and we don’t know yet how Shelton will fit with his new teammates. He’s a run-stopper, so $7.1 million for a run-stopper is just a lot of money unless you’ve got plenty of money to spend and New England’s just not usually in that spending category.
Kevin Johnson, Texans
I was pretty sold on the pick in 2015 but Johnson’s career has not been good. Still, cornerbacks, like offensive linemen, are hard to find and that’s increased the amount of slack teams are willing to give them as well as the amount of money. Houston may not pick up the option, but if they do, Johnson still has a long ways to go to earn it as a guarantee. Note: He only has 31” arms, so if you still believe in that 32” threshold for the Seahawks, Johnson falls well below it.
Arik Armstead, 49ers
They’re spending money like crazy, often on contracts that I totally disagree with. Armstead has not played well but they might see something more in him and his future with Robert Saleh as defensive coordinator. I think they probably pass on this option, but I’ve had a hard time predicting or understanding much of what San Francisco has done under John Lynch. (Not generally saying that everything they’ve done is wrong or that my opinions are right, just that I can’t predict John Lynch at all.)
Cedric Ogbuehi, Bengals
He could be saved by the fact that it’s hard to find any offensive linemen deemed “capable” of quality starts these days. But Ogbuehi was very disappointing after Andrew Whitworth left and the Bengals had to trade for Cordy Glenn. Even Marvin Lewis publicly acknowledged that Ogbuehi’s play has “held us back.”
Seattle might be interested in the huge tackle, but if he’s not good enough for Cincinnati, that’s not a great sign for anyone else. That’s something to remember for any 2015 first rounder who could be available soon. The Bengals may be interested in seeking a trade of Ogbuehi in the near future as well.
Byron Jones, Cowboys
He was “The Freak of the Week” at the combine in 2015, an athlete that many Seattle fans would like to see molded by Carroll and his staff. That could still happen. Jones has moved around on the field and fell out of favor at free safety last season. His option as a safety would be $6.2 million, which is affordable if he’s starting, but that’s hardly a guarantee right now. Jones could be on the trading block - something that I’ve not yet seen addressed in any Earl Thomas rumors, not that I’m really reading Thomas trade rumors.
Laken Tomlinson, 49ers
See: Offensive Linemen
See: John Lynch
Damarious Randall, Browns
Cleveland has the cash and they just acquired Randall, so why not pick up the option? He’s made 30 starts and has 10 interceptions, can he be a complete safety in Gregg Williams’ defense after three years as an adequate-at-best cornerback in Green Bay? That’s hard to say which is why the Browns likely pick up his option then see what happens.
Likely To Be Available In 2019, If Not Sooner
Kevin White, Bears
Not that I know much about draft scouting, but White was my favorite receiver in the 2015 draft. He’s unfortunately played in just five games since and that’s why Chicago can’t really entertain his option. If he manages to stay healthy next season, I could see him being very productive with Matt Nagy and Mitchell Trubisky, and that means that the Bears could lose him in free agency. But there’s nothing to understand about White except for this: he’s never been healthy for more than a few weeks in his NFL career. What else can you do, but wait and see if that ever changes? Even a productive year likely leads to an incentive-laden one-year prove-it-again contract.
Cam Erving, Chiefs
He’s perhaps barely still “in the NFL” as is and needs to earn a spot out of training camp this year.
Breshad Perriman, Ravens
Another noted combine freak (4.24 40-yard dash at 212 lbs), Perriman’s been nothing more than that since. He had 77 yards in 11 games last year and Baltmore is stockpiling new receiving weapons in 2018, including perhaps Dez Bryant. If that signing happens, Perriman could be with a new team by August.
Phillip Dorsett, Patriots
Another 2015er added by New England, Dorsett was far less valuable than Jacoby Brissett, the player he was dealt for. He may have to battle it out with Kenny Britt, Cordarrelle Patterson, and Jordan Matthews for a veteran roster spot in training camp.
Stephone Anthony, Dolphins
This is the player the Saints drafted when they dealt Jimmy Graham to the Seahawks and he’s had an Aaron Curry-esque career since and it may not even last as long as that. He was traded to Miami and there wasn’t much to see so that could be Anthony’s final season period.