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Managing expectations: What would those comp picks for Jimmy Graham and Paul Richardson have looked like?

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NFL: 2017 NFL Draft Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports

On Wednesday we looked at what kind of success rates NFL teams have in the draft in the first and second rounds, and then on Thursday we added the third round to the picture. In this piece we are going to take a look at the fourth and fifth rounds of the draft using the same metrics as we have looked at for the first three rounds.

Now, these two rounds are of particular interest to the Seattle Seahawks currently because the fourth round is where the team may have given up on comp picks for the departure of Jimmy Graham, Sheldon Richardson and Paul Richardson in free agency. There’s still plenty of time for other teams to sign the multiple Seattle free agents on the market and restore those comp picks, but even if that happens, I’m not sure how much success one should expect from those comp picks. Why do I say that? Well, they say a picture is worth a thousand words, so let’s just go ahead and take a look at the success rates of these two rounds over the past few decades.

So, say Seattle maxed out its comp picks and got four fourth round selections. Those picks would come in between the fourth and fifth rounds, so the results to be expected would likely be a mix of the fourth and fifth rounds. Well, it doesn’t take a whole lot of math to figure out that the failure rate for a pick in these two rounds is somewhere in the 80% range. That means for every five players taken in these two rounds, a team is likely to only find a single starter. So, even if the Seahawks had maxed out with four fourth round comp picks, they wouldn’t be expected to get even one starter out of that group.

In contrast, rather than gamble on longshots a year from now in the 2019 draft, the team opted to add the following to its arsenal:

  • One of the best pass blocking tight ends in the NFL in Ed Dickson,
  • A SAM linebacker who is very good in pass coverage in Barkevious Mingo,
  • An above average pass rushing defensive tackle who can disrupt the pocket from the middle in Tom Johnson,
  • A middle clogging run stopping defensive tackle with run stopping stats comparable to Jarran Reed in Shamar Stephen,
  • A blazing fast wide receiver with good size who can contribute materially on special teams in Jaron Brown and
  • A massive man beast of a right guard who is a mauler in run blocking in D.J. Fluker.

None of those are All Pros or Pro Bowlers, but they are all experienced veterans. All of them have proven they can play in the NFL in specific roles, and all of those are roles where the Seahawks have holes. So, what Seattle did during the first few weeks of free agency was to decide it was more important to fill those empty holes with players who have proven they can contribute in the NFL rather than wait for some lottery tickets next spring. In addition, there is still plenty of time for many of the free agents the Hawks have not retained to end up with another team. I mean, even Blair Walsh got a look from his hometown team last week.

Getting back to the draft, while the bust rate has only increased from the third round, the savings on the contracts are minimal. Once the rookie wage scale hits the third round, it’s already starting to get pretty close to the league minimum, and there’s not a lot of meat left to take off the bone. Here’s how fourth and fifth round contracts compare to those of the Day 1 and Day 2 picks.

One of the biggest things to note with the fourth and fifth round contracts is that the guarantees are absolutely minimal compared to the earlier rounds. Players taken at the top of the first get fully guaranteed four year contracts, so that pick at 1.1 is getting $32.816M over the next four years as long as he doesn’t do something stupid and get suspended by the league. It doesn’t matter if the top overall pick is JaMarcus Russell or Cam Newton, that money is fully guaranteed and the player is getting every last penny of it. In contrast, those fourth and fifth round contracts have a few hundred thousand in signing bonus guaranteed and that’s all.

As I’ve noted in earlier pieces, we’ll dig more into the guarantees after we’ve looked at the success rates for all seven rounds, but it’s just another piece of the puzzle to keep in mind.