Saturday the Seattle Seahawks, along with the other 31 NFL teams, trimmed their roster down to 53 players from the 90 they had been carrying during the offseason. Many of the names that had been expected to make it through the cuts process, including wide receiver Jaron Brown, defensive end Cassius Marsh and cornerback Jamar Taylor surprisingly found themselves released by the Seahawks.
On the flip side, in spite of the overwhelming odds of late round draft picks having the talent and skill to develop into NFL players, the Hawks not only kept all eleven of their 2019 draft picks on the either the 53 or the PUP list, they also kept seven of nine of their 2018 draftees. That gives the team a whopping 16 of 20 draft picks from the last two draft classes, with Phil Haynes and Demarcus Christmas on the PUP list. That’s a ninety percent retention rate among draft picks, with only the last two picks in the 2018 draft, Alex McGough and Jacob Martin, not currently on the roster or the PUP list.
Now, the entire 2019 class making the roster, while a surprise, is not as much of an alarm bell. These are players who have only been in the system for a matter of months, and the team has shown no hesitation in moving on from players who don’t appear ready after a year. Whether that’s Kristjan Sokoli, Mike Tyson, Tye Smith or any other player the team has moved on from after a year, they’ve typically given players a year to show what they can do and moved on from them if that player wasn’t ready to produce. However, that isn’t slated to be the case with the 2019 Seahawks.
While Michael Dickson is fantastic, Tre Flowers showed flashes of what the Hawks hope for from him in 2018 and Will Dissly looked to be back to his old pre-injury self in the preseason, that still leaves a lot of the 2018 class not contributing. Rasheem Green and Rashaad Penny are largely considered to have had disappointing preseasons, while Shaquem Griffin and Jamarco Jones didn’t get to play a lot due to injuries. All four of those are set to be rotational players at best, while the 2019 draft class looks as if it could potentially have an even smaller impact.
First round pick L.J. Collier is likely to be behind both Ziggy Ansah and Jadeveon Clowney this season. Second round picks Marquise Blair and DK Metcalf were both limited by injuries in the preseason as well and could see their early contributions limited as a result. Metcalf seems likely to earn a lot of playing time in the revamped receiving corps, but Blair appears likely to be buried on the depth chart at least for this season. The same goes for Cody Barton, who flashed during the preseason, but both Barton and fifth round pick Ben Burr-Kirven seem likely to not see much playing time behind what is likely the best linebacking corps in the NFL in Bobby Wagner, K.J. Wright and Mychal Kendricks.
Nobody has any idea what Phil Haynes or Demarcus Christmas can do because neither was even able to practice during training camp, while Gary Jennings and Travis Homer as the sixth wide receiver and fourth running back, respectively, are so buried on the depth chart they seem likely to be a healthy scratch often. Ugo Amadi appears destined to be a phenomenal gunner across from Neiko Thorpe on special teams, but his defensive snaps could be limited and John Ursua will likely see the field some, but as the backup in the slot he’ll be behind the best receiver on the team.
In short, while the team has 16 of it’s 20 most recent draft picks on the roster and 18 of the 20 most recent draft picks in house, many of them will not be contributing in a material way in 2019. That leads to the question of whether the players the team kept are the players best able to contribute to the team in a meaningful way this season. There were over 1,000 players waived, cut or released across the NFL on Saturday and if the Hawks keep the 16 recent draft picks on the roster, it’s a way of saying that they feel those 16 players can help the team more than any of the thousand players released.
And that comes down to a simple probability. I’ve written at length about the probability of draft picks developing and the fact that the draft is random, and having 16 players from the two most recent draft classes on the roster defies probability. The odds of a even a player taken in the first two rounds of the draft ending up as an NFL caliber player are about even, and only go down from there. The probability of getting sixteen NFL caliber players in two draft classes is not just small, it’s so minimal as to effectively be negligible.
In short, if a team is stocked full of players from recent draft classes who aren’t playing and aren’t contributing, it’s a potential red flag. Not only could it indicate that those players may not develop into what the team is hoping, it is possible the team is doubling down on the mistake in keeping the player rather than recognizing the mistake and moving on. Now, just because something is a potential red flag doesn’t mean it’s automatically a bad thing.
It is, of course, possible that the players the Seahawks have drafted over the past two years are indeed all NFL caliber players. The odds of that are of course extremely low, but it is not outside the realm of possibility. Thus, as the 2019 season progresses it will be interesting to watch how things unfold with these players. Do they play significant roles with the team moving forward, or will these players remain buried on the depth chart? If it’s the former, it’s certainly a good sign, while if it’s the latter, it might be somewhat troubling.