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What the Seahawks surely know about all the 20-year-olds drafted in the last decade

NCAA Football: Southern California at Arizona State Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports

Rasheem Green feels like a bonus.

Because Seahawks GM John Schneider and head coach Pete Carroll said they’d have been comfortable drafting running back Rashaad Penny with the 18th overall pick, we know for sure that there are plenty of universes that exist out there in the multiverse in which Seattle doesn’t trade back and wind up with pick 76 in return for moving down nine spots in the first round. If no viable offers had come through, or if Schneider and Carroll had gotten nervous about the possibility of losing out on Penny, then Green would be signing with a different team this year.

Instead, he’s coming to Seattle, and the Seahawks are welcoming in one of the youngest players in the 2018 class. One of the youngest draft prospects ever. Does that mean anything?

Born May 15, 1997, Green doesn’t turn 21 for two more weeks. Pro-Football-Reference only lists 12 players since 2007 who were drafted before turning 21, dating back to when Amobi Okoye made history as a 19-year-old getting selected 10th overall by the Houston Texans. Okoye’s tale, if you remember it, is as fascinating as it is “cautionary”: he had 5.5 sacks as a rookie but failed to ever really tap into that presumed-deep well of potential and injuries helped steer him out of the NFL - for the most part - before he turned 26.

That is also, however, the story for a lot of first round picks. Not just young ones. In fact, Okoye’s four-year performance for the Texans could be considered acceptable, given that many players don’t start 58 games for the teams that drafted them. And when looking at the 11 20-year-olds to come since Okoye, there is actually more good than bad.

Since 20-year-olds are rare and a small sample size - and not that far off from being 21 - I’ve also included some notable 21-year-olds. This is an age group that varies massively year-to-year, including a boom in 21-year-olds in the last two or three drafts that makes it a meaningless task to try and parse data from it. However, I’ve included some anyway. After Okoye in 2007, these are some 21-year-olds who came off the board:

21-year-olds: Marshawn Lynch, Charles Johnson, Lawrence Timmons, Zach Miller, Jamaal Anderson, Ahmad Bradshaw

While you have a bust like Anderson, you also have some very solid careers from guys like Lynch and Timmons, plus a seventh round steal in Bradshaw. In fact, I found that a lot of the mid-to-late round players who were 21 or so actually seemed to do a lot better than most would expect in that range, at least before the recent boom.

2008

21-year-olds: Darren McFadden, Derrick Harvey, Jonathan Stewart, DeSean Jackson, Ray Rice, Martellus Bennett, Jamaal Charles, Tyvon Branch, Orlando Scandrick, Stevie Johnson

2009

21-year-olds: Matthew Stafford, Aaron Maybin, Malcolm Jenkins, Jeremy Maclin, Percy Harvin, Josh Freeman, Vontae Davis, Kenny Britt, Captain Munnerlyn, LeSean McCoy, Brandon Tate

2010

Anthony Davis, OT, 49ers, 11th overall

Aaron Hernandez, TE, Patriots, 113th overall

21-year-olds: Eric Berry, Joe Haden, Earl Thomas, Jason Pierre-Paul, Rolando McClain, Derrick Morgan, Dez Bryant, Bryan Bulaga, Maurkice Pouncey, Rob Gronkowski, Linval Joseph, Carlos Dunlap, Alterraun Verner, Morgan Burnett

Davis and Hernandez were the two youngest players drafted in 2010. Hernandez was a great value for a little while, but the concerns that drove him to the place that he went to had nothing to do with the year he was born. You can’t really chalk his crimes up to “immaturity.”

2011

Tyron Smith, OT, Cowboys, 9th overall

21-year-olds: Marcell Dareus, Patrick Peterson, Blaine Gabbert, Robert Quinn, Corey Liuget, Mark Ingram, Muhammad Wilkerson, Kyle Rudolph, Randall Cobb, Jurrell Casey, Dion Lewis

It’s hard to believe Smith is only 27, but that’s the reward for drafting a 20-year-old when he works out well.

2012

21-year-olds: Luke Kuechly, Fletcher Cox, Michael Brockers, David Wilson, Brock Osweiler, Olivier Vernon, Lamar Miller

2013

21-year-olds: Luke Joeckel, Eric Reid, Sharrif Floyd, DeAndre Hopkins, Robert Woods, Le’Veon Bell, Tyrann Mathieu, Keenan Allen, Kenny Stills, Spencer Ware, Jelani Jenkins, Akeem Spence

2014

Marcus Martin, C, 49ers, 70th overall

21-year-olds: Jadeveon Clowney, Greg Robinson, Sammy Watkins, Mike Evans, Eric Ebron, Odell Beckham, Brandin Cooks, HaHa Clinton-Dix, Johnny Manziel, Teddy Bridgewater, Davante Adams, Allen Robinson, Jarvis Landry, Aaron Lynch

It felt like Martin was headed in the right direction but he’s had some injuries and poor performances and is currently fighting for a job on the Dallas Cowboys. He’s 24, making him younger than some upcoming rookies.

2015

Alex Carter, CB, Lions, 80th overall

Danielle Hunter, DE, Vikings, 88th overall

21-year-olds: Jameis Winston, Marcus Mariota, Dante Fowler, Amari Cooper, Leonard Williams, Erick Flowers, Todd Gurley, Andrus Peat, Arik Armstead, Landon Collins, Stefon Diggs

Funny enough: Carter and Hunter were basically traded for one another. They were the only 20-year-olds in the draft, and the Lions traded up eight spots with the Vikings to take him, while Minnesota moved down and selected Hunter, plus a fifth round pick they used on MyCole Pruitt. Things kept working in Minnesota’s favor, as Hunter has become one of the best defensive ends in the league. Carter, however, was waived during final cuts in 2016 and moved to the practice squad. He bounced around a few teams before winding up on the Seahawks in 2017, then re-signing on a futures contract this past January. Carter was drafted three years ago but is only 23.

2016

Kenny Clark, DT, Packers, 27th overall

Andrew Billings, DT, Bengals, 122nd overall

A pair of defensive tackles, Billings has had injury issues, while Clark started to breakout last year at age 21.

2017

Marcus Williams, S, Saints, 42nd overall

Raekwon McMillan, LB, Dolphins, 54th overall

JuJu Smith-Schuster, WR, Steelers, 62nd overall

You can see the trend of youth continuing not just with 21-year-olds, but with 20-year-olds. That’s five from 2016-2017 and another group coming in this year, including Green, and Tremaine Edmunds, who is a teenager; Edmunds doesn’t turn 20 until Wednesday. That’s a huge change from where the league was at a decade ago, when Okoye came off the board and then no other sub-21-year-olds again until three years later. Now the money is coming even sooner for hopefuls who complete the requirements of being three years out of high school and entering the draft with some semblance of a good resume.

That was boosted by the performance of Smith-Schuster last season, a player who only turned 21 last November but still put up 41 catches and 686 yards over the final seven games of the season. (16-game pace: 94 catches, 1,568 yards, nine touchdowns.)

Williams was great too, starting 15 games for the New Orleans Saints as a rookie who turned 21 in September, with four interceptions and seven passes defensed. Raekwon - whose age can be guessed based on the fact that he is named after a Wu-Tang Clan member - unfortunately tore his ACL and missed everything, but he’s still only 22.

Who knows what the future holds for Green, as he likely still has a year of watching and waiting ahead of him before much movement happens in terms of him getting reps in the defensive line rotation, but we know he likely has a little bit more NFL future ahead of him than most draft prospects. It may not work out, but the reward seems to be worth the risk; especially since the “risk” only came at the cost of moving down nine spots in round one.