One of the greatest strengths of the Pete Carroll-John Schneider era has always been the impact of the 2010-2012 draft classes. One of the greatest weaknesses — at least as has been frequently tossed around by many fans — is all the draft classes since.
While 2013 was undeniably fruitless (in part because of trading a first for Percy Harvin and 8 of their 11 picks coming in the fifth round or later) and 2014 gave the team just two starting players (Justin Britt and for a short time, Paul Richardson), the front office probably did just enough in 2015 to justify praise.
Getting Frank Clark and Tyler Lockett without having a pick in the top 60 is as impressive as finding any gem in the fifth round. But half-empty fans have not particular enjoyed the totality of the 2013-2018 draft classes and that’s a long time for fans to feel like you’re failing. The impact of the post-2015 classes has been underwhelming for the most part but two weeks into this season it seems that there could — and maybe should be a shift in that line of thinking.
The 2-0 Seattle Seahawks are winning close games in large part due to the players they acquired through the draft in the last four years.
Players from the 2016-2018 classes who have served as starters in the first two weeks: Germain Ifedi, Quinton Jefferson, Ethan Pocic, Shaquill Griffin, Lano Hill, Tedric Thompson, Chris Carson, Will Dissly, Tre Flowers, and Michael Dickson. Add in 2019 and you’ll also see D.K. Metcalf in there as well.
That’s 11 players drafted in the last four years. Most of them are not Seattle’s most high-profile players, but it does represent 75% of the top four secondary players (Griffin, Flowers, and either one of the safeties), a solid-minus-fumbles starting running back, an exciting rookie receiver, a tight end who clearly slipped way further in the draft than he should have, and an All-Pro punter.
A bad drafting team typically doesn’t draft bad starters. A bad drafting team typically loses its draft picks altogether. Take the Cleveland Browns for instance.
Even in recent years “after” the worst of the storm apparently had passed, look at the 2017 Browns class: Jabrill Peppers (1st round) has been traded, DeShone Kizer (2nd round) was traded, their fourth round pick was waived, their fifth round pick was waived, their sixth round pick was waived, and both of their seventh round picks ... waived.
That’s a draft class from two years ago, featuring 10 players, and the only ones left on Cleveland’s roster are Myles Garrett, David Njoku (both first rounders), and Larry Ogunjobi. Hey, finding three starters, especially quality ones, is good for any team. (Note again that Schneider found Clark and Lockett at picks 63 and 69 respectively, while Garrett and Njoku went first and 29th.) They also traded Peppers + pick for Odell Beckham, Jr., so he wasn’t without value. But the other six players gave nothing to the Browns.
Which hurts even more given that their previous classes were virtually useless. Cleveland drafted 14 players in 2016 and 12 of those are on another team or out of the NFL. The Browns drafted 24 players from 2016-2017 and 19 of them are gone already. The Seahawks drafted 21 players over that same period of time and even including the frustrating career of Malik McDowell, they’ve held onto 12 of those selections.
Cleveland: held onto 5 of 24 draft picks
Seattle: held onto 12 of 21 draft picks
And the Browns had way more top-heavy draft capital to work with.
Here are the players from the last four draft classes to still be employed by the team on the 53-man roster. Reed is not on the 53-man roster at the moment, but will be soon.
Germain Ifedi, Jarran Reed, C.J. Prosise, Nick Vannett, Quinton Jefferson, Joey Hunt
Ethan Pocic, Shaquill Griffin, Lano Hill, Tedric Thompson, David Moore, Chris Carson
Rashaad Penny, Rasheem Green, Will Dissly, Shaquem Griffin, Tre Flowers, Michael Dickson, Jamarco Jones. *Jacob Martin
L.J. Collier, Marquise Blair, D.K. Metcalf, Cody Barton, Gary Jennings, Phil Haynes*, Ugo Amadi, Ben Burr-Kirven, Travis Homer, Demarcus Christmas*, John Ursua
That’s 27 of their 53 players (51%) plus Reed on suspension and Haynes, Christmas on reserve lists. I included Martin only as a note that their sixth round pick a year ago also helped them acquire Jadeveon Clowney.
That’s gotta be some kind of impact.
This group represents both good and less than good parts of the Seattle roster.
- Reed had 10.5 sacks last season and could be an anchor in the middle for years to come if the Seahawks extend him.
- Carson is one of the top running backs in the NFL, if not for fumbles.
- Dissly has been outstanding in at least three of his six games so far in his career.
- Griffin has been through growing pains and had to shift his position a year ago but now lighter and looking more comfortable, could be a long-term answer at corner.
- Flowers is only of only four players on defense to play in every snap so far this season.
- Dickson is an All-Pro.
- D.K. Metcalf.
- Ifedi is working on his fourth season as a starter. He’s not great, but he’s had a greater impact than most of the offensive linemen in the 2016 draft class. It’s rare to even find a player who can start at right tackle without being a week-in, week-out “when are we gonna get rid of this guy” discussion.
- Jefferson was released by the team at one point but returned. Started most of 2018 and had a great game in Week 1.
- Vannett also in his fourth year with the team, caught a big first down on Sunday and is a regular in the tight end rotation.
- Pocic has had notable impact in both games and for better or worse, he’s been an important sixth lineman this year. More so than George Fant, an undrafted free agent during this period and I haven’t even discussed UDFAs.
- Thompson started most of last season and Lano made the start in Week 2. Not sure both or either of these guys will be around in 2020, but it’s possible they both could be too. There’s been signs of progress but overall their deficiencies haven’t sunk the defense entirely either.
- Moore was one of the team’s top playmakers in 2018 and could return from a broken arm on Sunday.
- Penny’s mixed results are better than bad results and his good results are really, really good.
- Prosise is healthy and he got some action this week.
- Green’s getting a lot of playing time and had a sack in Week 1.
- Griffin, Barton, and Burr-Kirven are three players who have played every special teams snap so far this season and that should continue. Barton’s presence likely lets the team part with at least one of KJ Wright or Mychal Kendricks in 2020.
- Collier made his NFL debut this week.
- Jones is now a backup at tackle and there’s hope he will replace Ifedi eventually.
- Blair and Ugo are still working their way onto the field for defense, with Ugo in the lead there and Blair missing time with a back injury earlier. Both are in about half of the special teams snaps.
- This is not a mark against anyone not mentioned really. Jennings and some other rookies, it’s just too soon to say anything.
The undrafted free agents also include Bryan Mone, who was needed to start on Sunday; Malik Turner, who had three catches; Poona Ford, who missed this game but could return to face the Saints; and Fant.
You should be adding those guys to these classes as well. That means that if you’re going to mention McDowell, it would only be fair to mention Poona.
And you’re going to be mentioning a lot of these guys for awhile it seems.