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The 2017 2nd round of the NFL draft was bad for almost everybody

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NFL: Carolina Panthers at Detroit Lions Raj Mehta-USA TODAY Sports

I sent this out in the Seaside Joe newsletter this week and since I want to be able to expand on the below facts in future articles, it was important that I post it on Field Gulls too. If you’re interested in getting more content on the Seahawks this season like the below (this is exceptionally long compared to the average Seaside newsletter length) then you may sign up here.

You will hear words like “wasted” when discussing Seattle’s selection of both Malik McDowell and Ethan Pocic in the second round of the 2017 NFL Draft. The dictionary definition of the verb “waste” is as such: use or expend carelessly, extravagantly, or to no purpose.

The Seahawks did USE draft picks on both players. But were they careless, extravagant, and without purpose?

The answer to the last bit there is obviously “No.” They had a purpose and reasons for drafting McDowell and Pocic, to become a better football team. The fact that McDowell and Pocic have not made them better has little to do with Seattle using draft picks on them.

Were the selections extravagant, or “lacking restraint in spending”? One may argue that using a pick on McDowell felt like it lacked restraint because McDowell had work ethic and commitment concerns. Perhaps his lack of commitment led to his accident and emphasized the risk of lacking restraint. Perhaps. But it would be hard to argue that there are many draft picks who don’t have a red flag of some sort, especially when you dig into the second round and beyond.

When a player fails, we can point to his “negative” draft attributes. Josh Gordon was so flagged that he had to go in the supplemental draft. As a player who has been unable to let his talent overcome his vices, Gordon’s red flags make him a “waste” for the Browns usage of a pick on him, no? But for every player who succeeds — including Gordon for a short period of time — then the red flags are ignored. The problems are not just forgiven, they’re forgotten.

Josh Gordon 2012-2013: Fantastic pick!

Josh Gordon 2014-present: Wasted pick :(

Players, like humans, are flawed, because players, we forget, are humans.

I don’t know if I can get away with that many commas but I’m always gonna try.

There are many timelines where McDowell plays for the Seahawks and does well. And perhaps even a few where Pocic is a starting guard. But because of how many prospects in the 2017 draft have been disappointments, you’ll probably find that more often than not, Seattle had a very low probability of drafting one, let alone two, good players in that round.

John Schneider’s mistake in 2017 was not selecting McDowell and Pocic, it was in believing that day two of that year’s draft was loaded enough to have made six picks when in fact it may turn out to be one of the worst draft classes of the modern era. It’s not that he should have avoided these two players in particular, it’s that he should have avoided the 2017 draft or even gone against all instincts and traded up.

Let’s review the other players who went in the second round in 2017 (*has dealt with significant injury already):

33. Kevin King*, CB, Packers

Former Huskies corner with 32” arms that many fans wanted to see replace Richard Sherman in some capacity. Has missed 17 of 32 games due to injury. King is reportedly healthy to start camp but has yet to prove he’s capable of starting at corner in the NFL.

34. Cam Robinson*, OT, Jaguars

Tore ACL in 2018, starting camp on PUP.

35. Malik McDowell*, DT, Seahawks

Never played.

36. Budda Baker, S, Cardinals

Easily the best player in this range. If you believe that only the best things should be possible, then Baker is your man, but I’m not sure that Pete Carroll would view him as a replacement for Earl Thomas. Either way, it doesn’t matter, of course Budda would have been a much better choice than McDowell with hindsight of him getting in an off-field accident. There aren’t gonna be many “misses” like Budda though.

37. Zay Jones, WR, Bills

Has 11.7 yards per catch and 5.5 yards per target in his career so far. Not good. With Josh Allen last season, Jones was arguably at his worst, catching fewer than 50% of his targets. In fact, two of Jones’ seven touchdowns catches came from Matt Barkley, who only appeared in one game.

38. Forrest Lamp*, G, Chargers

Missed entire rookie season with injury and by 2018 he was a backup on an offensive line that didn’t want to screw with its continuity or success. So Lamp has yet to start a game and he’s only appeared in two. He’s expected to win a job this season, but we’ll see. Lamp is perhaps the name we saw connected to the Seahawks the most during 2018 mock drafts.

39. Marcus Maye*, S, Jets

Started every game as a rookie but missed 10 games in 2018 with multiple injuries and he’s on PUP to open camp. His status for Week 1 is very much in doubt.

40. Curtis Samuel*, WR, Panthers

Has missed 10 games with injury, including finishing 2017 on injured reserve. Averaged 4.4 yards per target as a rookie and just 7.6 Y/T last season. Not at all a notable receiver as of yet.

41. Dalvin Cook*, RB, Vikings

Like King, has also missed 17 of a possible 32 games. Tore ACL as a rookie, like Lamp. He’s also just not very good at this point. Despite being a running back and every so often has had a good game, Cook has vastly under-performed what you would expect from a player at his position. It’s the big games that really mask how many bad games Cook has already put on his record.

42. Marcus Williams, S, Saints

He’s healthy. He starts. But he’s not anything special and so far has done nothing to erase the memory of his whiff on Stefon Diggs.

43. Sidney Jones*, CB, Eagles

Another player from the UW secondary and another one who many Seahawks fans would have preferred over McDowell despite the fact that Jones was injured before the draft. Missed virtually all of 2017 and returned to play in nine games last year. Both Cook and Jones were riddled with hamstring injuries in the year after recovering from a serious injury in 2017. Jones could still breakout in 2019 and put those two years behind him but as of now the Eagles have gotten almost zero from their own second round risk.

44. Gerald Everett*, TE, Rams

Just not a notable part of the Sean McVay offense whatsoever. He averaged only 9.7 YPC and 6.4 Y/T, way behind LA’s trio of receivers. It’s not exactly what you’d expect from a second round tight end who was drafted by the “best offensive mind” of the last couple years.

45. Adam Shaheen*, TE, Bears

Similar story. Tight end drafted right after Everett, goes to an offense with a “genius” running the show in Matt Nagy, but Shaheen’s pretty much forgotten at the moment. He started 2018 on IR with a foot injury and returned to make five catches for 48 yards. Shaheen has a long ways to go to prove worthy of his draft position, and its unlikely he’ll ever make it worth it to Chicago as half of his rookie deal is pretty much a wash now.

46. Quincy Wilson*, CB, Colts

Has missed 12 games due to injury and has yet to prove himself as an NFL cornerback. Wilson improved under the new coaching staff in 2018 but the team drafted Rock Ya-Sin in the second round this year and they already had a couple of corners on the depth chart ahead of Wilson as is.

47. Tyus Bowser, LB, Ravens

Has been healthy but not productive. Bowser has 3.5 career sacks in 31 games and zero starts. Baltimore is hoping this is the year as Terrell Suggs, Za’Darius Smith, and C.J. Mosley are all on other teams now.

48. Joe Mixon, RB, Bengals

Concussion, ankle, and knee injuries have cost him a few games, but nothing too serious yet. Mixon would have been a reasonable choice for the Pro Bowl last season but as a running back he’s coming with injury and overall value risks, not to mention the thing we all know about him.

49. Ryan Anderson, LB, Washington

He’s missed a few games with injury but the bigger problem is that Anderson might not be an NFL player. Don’t worry, it happens to most draft picks. Anderson has 32 tackles and two sacks in his career and though Preston Smith departed, Montez Sweat arrived and Anderson needs to find a new position if he’s going to crack the starting lineup. Actually, he might need to do a lot to make the final roster at all.

50. Justin Evans*, S, Bucs

A toe injury cost him six games last year and he’s currently on PUP. Evans has a chance to start Week 1, but how much that matters remains to be seen. Tampa Bay had the worst defense in the NFL last year by DVOA. The team drafted safety Mike Edwards in the third round as a player looking to step up if Evans’ toe keeps him grounded.

51. DeMarcus Walker*, DE, Broncos

Have you even heard of Walker? Or did you assume it was a typo of Ware? He went on IR as a rookie with a foot injury and he played just 21 defensive snaps in 2018 because he’s bad. Denver is looking for Vic Fangio to get something out of him but Walker is looking like a release or trade candidate if that doesn’t happen.

52. DeShone Kizer, QB, Browns

Less needs to be said about quarterbacks because you monitor them closely and you know that Kizer is awful. He was let go by his team sooner than the Seahawks let go of Malik McDowell.

53. Teez Tabor, CB, Lions

He’s a bench player. I think Detroit fans view him the same way you see Ethan Pocic.

54. Raekwon McMillan*, LB, Dolphins

Tore his ACL during the 2017 preseason and returned to make 105 tackles last season, but McMillan was not that good. That could change, he could grow, but he’s just racking up tackles for the most part right now.

55. Dalvin Tomlinson, DT, Giants

He’s a top-notch run-stuffing defensive tackle who in the brightest timeline turns into Brandon Williams maybe? There’s limited value in what Tomlinson has been. Run-stuffing nose tackles or 3-4 defensive ends are the running backs of the defense.

56. Obi Melifonwu*, S, Raiders

Melifonwu might be the first player on this list who has worse value than McDowell. Yes, Obi has played in seven (!) games but he’s not a football player. He’s just not. Oakland waived him after one year and was picked up by the Patriots. Has also dealt with injuries and surgery in his short two-year NFL stint. I mean, he’s not out of the league, he’s competing in New England, but he might not be in NFL camps for much longer. Which is a shame because Melifonwu was the darling of the 2017 combine which says all it needs to say about that. Many Seattle fans wanted Melifonwu because SPARQ.

57. Zach Cunningham, LB, Texans

He’s a good starting linebacker but strong against the run and not strong against the pass. Just imagining him in Seattle’s defense, the presence of Cunningham might not only prevent them from having to root for Mychal Kendricks’ lawyer, but could have potentially saved them a few bucks instead of re-signing K.J. Wright. Not that there’s anything wrong really with re-signing Wright. Cunningham makes tackles but is still limited. The Seahawks are certainly fine with what they have at the position right now.

58. Ethan Pocic, G/C, Seahawks

You know the deal. Honestly, Pocic might be a worse pick than Malik and many will blame Tom Cable for it. Fine, if that helps us move on, let’s blame Cable for it and move on.

59. Tanoh Kpassagnon, DE, Chiefs

He was a long-term project. So long-term that the team dealt a first and second round pick for Frank Clark then paid him $105 million. Tanoh has two career sacks. He might need to sneak onto the 53-man roster this year by hoping that a few other guys get hurt or under-perform.

60. Chidobe Awuzie*, CB, Cowboys

A hamstring injury cost him six games as a rookie. Awuzie started almost every game last season after the team hired Kris Richard to coach DBs but a hip flexor issue could keep him out to open the year. We’ll see if Richard can turn Awuzie into a high-quality starter anything like his teammate Byron Jones. Unlikely but Awuzie could still be a good player.

61. Josh Jones, S, Packers

Green Bay likes Jones so much that they buried him on the depth chart and rumors started bubbling up that he wouldn’t report to camp this year. He did, but Jones is frustrated with his status on the team.

“That’s what I’m here for,” Jones said on the PackersNews.com show “Clubhouse Live” (via Kyle Cousineau), “You ain’t going to take a player in the 2nd round to not contribute to the team.”

Look at all these teams that took a player in the 2nd round to not contribute to the team! Jones’ comments don’t make him look like a person ready to accept responsibility for under-performing, but maybe the problem is the Packers? Who knows. I mean, look at Casey Heyward’s career post-Green Bay. The Packers clearly aren’t too worried about what Jones thinks though as they spent the 21st overall pick on safety Darnell Savage this year.

Jones seems likely to get his wish to leave Green Bay but for now they’re trying him at linebacker.

62. JuJu Smith-Schuster, WR, Steelers

Here we go into three players you’ll wish were on the Seahawks. And look at where we are in the second round. The end! You could literally flip around the order of the second round of the 2017 draft and it would seem like a more accurate depiction of teams identifying quality. You’d think the second round would start with Moton, Dawkins, and Smith-Schuster, but instead it starts with three players who have missed a combined four out of six seasons.

63. Dion Dawkins, OT, Bills

There’s reasonable hope that Dawkins will become one of the better left tackles in the league but he also struggled in his first year as starter:

Dawkins took a significant step back in 2018 as both a pass protector and run blocker. He was easily beaten with speed around the edge far too often and seemed to miss his assignment far too often when run blocking. There were many times where Dawkins would simply miss his block and be the sole reason for a busted run play.

Dawkins also struggled mightily with penalties last season. He was flagged 11 times last season, the fifth-most of any offensive lineman in the entire NFL. With many false start and holding penalties, Dawkins struggled with both mental lapses and physical limitations that led to penalties.

64. Taylor Moton, G, Panthers

Both Dawkins and Moton were the best player on their respective offensive lines last year but in neither case is that saying much. Moton looks to become a first-tier right tackle at least, if not already, but he’s got only one year under his belt after spending his rookie season as a backup. It’s an excellent pick at 64, there’s no doubt about it. Seattle found a gem of their own at 63 two years earlier with Clark.

Check-in:

Half of this list has dealt with significant injuries already. It’s not just McDowell. Two other players besides McDowell have also been let go by their drafting team, both of whom (Obi, DeShone) proving to be poor football evaluations rather than bad luck. You can say that McDowell’s injury was more than just “bad luck” because he fell for character concerns, but a lot of people with character concerns don’t break bones in their skull. We’ll never know if McDowell would’ve failed as a player on the field even if we do know that he’s dealt with some issues that go beyond the field and that he was “flagged” for it prior to the draft.

A number of players look certain to part ways with their drafting team, including Bowser, Anderson, Walker, Tabor, Pocic, Tanoh, and J Jones. Think that’s impossible? Don’t be surprised. Going into your third year, being drafted in the second round doesn’t mean much. At this point you have to prove you’re worthy of a roster spot because you can contribute, not because you might contribute one day.

In many of these cases, the teams have made moves in 2019 to prepare to release or trade these picks. For example, the Seahawks signed Mike Iupati, drafted Phil Haynes, and added another center in Marcus Martin.

Many others have dealt with injuries or inconsistencies and are entering “prove it” years if they want to be considered as a part of the plan in 2020 and beyond. That includes King, Z Jones, Lamp, Maye, Samuel, S Jones, Everett, Shaheen, Wilson, Evans, and McMillan.

There are also injury or performance concerns that are being addressed right now with Robinson — the tackle who many Seattle fans wanted over McDowell had the Seahawks stayed where they were in the first round — as well as Awuzie, Williams, and Dawkins. There are also position value concerns with using second round picks on Cook, Mixon, Tomlinson, and Cunningham, though in the case of 2017 we can see just how much better it was to take a high-floor player than so many of these high-risk, high-rewards letdowns.

So who do we actually really, really like from the 2017 second round?

Budda Baker, JuJu Smith-Schuster, Taylor Moton. That’s it. That’s less than 10% of every player drafted in the second round.

If you re-drafted the second round, McDowell would go 32nd because at his point we know he never played, but it’s not as though you’d be doing much better with the player ranked 16th. Which is maybe Evans on the optimistic end of the range and Pocic on the pessimistic side. That’s how many bad picks there’ve been from this round: Ethan Pocic has a case for being average.

By the way, players who went in the third round that year include Alvin Kamara, Kareem Hunt, James Conner, Kenny Golladay, Larry Ogunjobi, Cooper Kupp, Pat Elflein, Dan Feeney, Chris Godwin, John Johnson, Shaquill Griffin, and more worth noting. For example, Rasul Douglas could beat out Sidney Jones in the Philly secondary for a starting job. That means that the third round was likely better than the second round, though Schneider and Carroll would probably be more eager to forget their picks here than choosing an incredible athlete like McDowell at 35.

Those picks were Shaquill Griffin, which isn’t too bad, but also Lano Hill, Naz Jones, and Amara Darboh. Though the bulk of these picks came after the best of round three was off the board, especially the Darboh and Tedric Thompson picks (Thompson going near the top of round four), and Seattle’s better bet might have been additional trade downs from round two or into the 2018 draft.

Or the Seahawks may have been better served trading up or staying put where they were in round one.

At pick 26, they passed on TreDavious White, T.J. Watt, and Ryan Ramczyk, while a move up could have helped them secure any one of those players that I’ll let you take a look at for yourself. Would I call the selection of McDowell at 35 a “waste” in the second round? No. If the NFL could delete the second round of the 2017 draft, they’d do so faster than I could delete a bad tweet — and I write a lot of bad tweets.

I would not call Seattle’s 2017 draft class a “waste” either, so much so as a failed evaluation of the quality of the class as a whole. The objective is to make as many picks as possible because of the crapshoot factor of the process, but you also have to know if you’re playing craps or blackjack or keno. The Seahawks misjudged the game, not the players.

The game was rigged against all teams in the second round that year.