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Do players develop when they don’t play early?

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Seatle Seahawks v Los Angeles Chargers Photo by John McCoy/Getty Images

As the Seattle Seahawks trimmed their roster down to 53 players, one of the things that stuck out was that they had managed to keep 18 of the 20 players that they have drafted over the past two years. The only two players out of the 20 drafted in 2018 and 2019 were Alex McGough, who bolted when given a chance to compete for a starting role with the Jacksonville Jaguars, and Jacob Martin, who was dealt to the Houston Texans as part of The Great Clowney Heist of Labor Day Weekend.

I pointed this out Sunday morning, opining that it is potentially not a great sign of things to come for the team. I was, of course and as expected, told that I was wrong, with alternatives proposed as for why I was wrong. I’m more than happy to consider alternatives, and I’m more than happy to be wrong, as the reaction on social media was much more direct and to the point in telling me how incorrect I was. (Authort’s note: I’ve only included the original tweet once to save you time, as this allows you to simply read through the reactions from social media celebrating my lack of intelligence.)

In any case, it’s obvious that the explanations proffered by fans are that the players will learn and develop while sitting the bench and that the team is fine because it does not need to rely on most of these youngsters since they won’t be starting.

And that right there cuts right to the heart of the issue. Good players get on the field early in their careers.

To back up my point, here’s a list of every player drafted by the Seattle Seahawks since Pete Carroll and John Schneider arrived in 2010, along with a simple yes or no column indicating whether that player saw the field for 300 or more offensive or defensive snaps during their rookie season.

Seahawks drafted rookies since 2010

Year Drafted Player Position 300 Snaps as Rookie
Year Drafted Player Position 300 Snaps as Rookie
2018 Rashaad Penny RB NO
2018 Rasheem Green DT NO
2018 Will Dissly TE NO
2018 Shaquem Griffin OLB NO
2018 Tre Flowers S YES
2018 Michael Dickson P NO
2018 Jamarco Jones T NO
2018 Jacob Martin LB NO
2018 Alex McGough QB NO
2017 Malik McDowell DT NO
2017 Ethan Pocic C YES
2017 Shaquill Griffin DB YES
2017 Delano Hill S NO
2017 Nazair Jones DT NO
2017 Amara Darboh WR NO
2017 Tedric Thompson S NO
2017 Mike Tyson S NO
2017 Justin Senior T NO
2017 David Moore WR NO
2017 Chris Carson RB NO
2016 Germain Ifedi G YES
2016 Jarran Reed DT YES
2016 C.J. Prosise RB NO
2016 Nick Vannett TE NO
2016 Rees Odhiambo G NO
2016 Quinton Jefferson DT NO
2016 Alex Collins RB NO
2016 Joey Hunt C NO
2016 Kenny Lawler WR NO
2016 Zac Brooks RB NO
2015 Frank Clark DE YES
2015 Tyler Lockett WR YES
2015 Terry Poole G NO
2015 Mark Glowinski G NO
2015 Tye Smith CB NO
2015 Obum Gwacham DE NO
2015 Kristjan Sokoli DT NO
2015 Ryan Murphy DB NO
2014 Paul Richardson WR YES
2014 Justin Britt T YES
2014 Cassius Marsh DE NO
2014 Kevin Norwood WR NO
2014 Kevin Pierre-Louis LB NO
2014 Jimmy Staten DT NO
2014 Garrett Scott OL NO
2014 Eric Pinkins DB NO
2014 Kiero Small RB NO
2013 Christine Michael RB NO
2013 Jordan Hill DT NO
2013 Chris Harper WR NO
2013 Jesse Williams DT NO
2013 Tharold Simon DB NO
2013 Luke Willson TE YES
2013 Spencer Ware RB NO
2013 Ryan Seymour G NO
2013 Ty Powell DE NO
2013 Jared Smith DT NO
2013 Michael Bowie T YES
2012 Bruce Irvin DE YES
2012 Bobby Wagner LB YES
2012 Russell Wilson QB YES
2012 Robert Turbin RB NO
2012 Jaye Howard DT NO
2012 Korey Toomer LB NO
2012 Jeremy Lane DB NO
2012 Winston Guy DB NO
2012 J.R. Sweezy DT NO
2012 Greg Scruggs DE NO
2011 James Carpenter T YES
2011 John Moffitt G YES
2011 K.J. Wright LB YES
2011 Kris Durham WR NO
2011 Richard Sherman DB YES
2011 Mark LeGree DB NO
2011 Byron Maxwell DB NO
2011 Lazarius Levingston DL NO
2011 Malcolm Smith LB NO
2010 Russell Okung T YES
2010 Earl Thomas DB YES
2010 Golden Tate WR YES
2010 Walter Thurmond DB YES
2010 E.J. Wilson DE NO
2010 Kam Chancellor DB NO
2010 Anthony McCoy TE NO
2010 Dexter Davis LB NO
2010 Jameson Konz TE NO

Obviously, as a punter Michael Dickson is an exception, but of the 2018 Seahawks draft class, only Tre Flowers saw more than 300 non-special teams snaps as a rookie. Sure, Will Dissly and Jamarco Jones both suffered injuries that ended their seasons, but it’s not like a promising rookie has ever seen their career derailed by a serious injury as a rookie, as we all think back to Thomas Rawls. Even players who did make the 300 snap threshold as rookies have seen injuries derail their careers, as happened to both Michael Bowie and John Moffitt.

Digging even deeper, here’s a comprehensive list of Seahawks draft choices since 2010 that have played fewer than 150 snaps as a rookie. How many of these players went on to develop into a quality player after not seeing the field much as a rookie?

Seahawks draftees who played fewer than 150 snaps as a rookie

Year Drafted Player Position
Year Drafted Player Position
2018 Will Dissly TE
2018 Shaquem Griffin OLB
2018 Michael Dickson P
2018 Jamarco Jones T
2018 Alex McGough QB
2017 Malik McDowell DT
2017 Delano Hill S
2017 Tedric Thompson S
2017 Mike Tyson S
2017 Justin Senior T
2017 David Moore WR
2016 C.J. Prosise RB
2016 Nick Vannett TE
2016 Rees Odhiambo G
2016 Quinton Jefferson DT
2016 Alex Collins RB
2016 Joey Hunt C
2016 Kenny Lawler WR
2016 Zac Brooks RB
2015 Terry Poole G
2015 Mark Glowinski G
2015 Tye Smith CB
2015 Obum Gwacham DE
2015 Kristjan Sokoli DT
2015 Ryan Murphy DB
2014 Cassius Marsh DE
2014 Kevin Pierre-Louis LB
2014 Jimmy Staten DT
2014 Garrett Scott OL
2014 Eric Pinkins DB
2014 Kiero Small RB
2013 Christine Michael RB
2013 Jordan Hill DT
2013 Chris Harper WR
2013 Jesse Williams DT
2013 Tharold Simon DB
2013 Spencer Ware RB
2013 Ryan Seymour G
2013 Ty Powell DE
2013 Jared Smith DT
2012 Jaye Howard DT
2012 Korey Toomer LB
2012 Winston Guy DB
2011 Kris Durham WR
2011 Mark LeGree DB
2011 Byron Maxwell DB
2011 Lazarius Levingston DL
2011 Malcolm Smith LB
2010 E.J. Wilson DE
2010 Anthony McCoy TE
2010 Dexter Davis LB
2010 Jameson Konz TE

As I down that list of 51 players not named Michael Dickson, there aren’t a whole lot of names that jump out as players I’d be worried about if they weren’t on the roster. Obviously, because his season was cut short as a rookie, Dissly is on that list, as one could argue David Moore, C.J. Prosise, Quinton Jefferson, Mark Glowinski, Jaye Howard, Byron Maxwell and Malcolm Smith could also warrant being included.

However, even nearly half of these names - QJeff, Prosise and Dissly are on the list specifically because of injuries suffered as rookies. In short, quality players make it onto the field as rookies, and the idea that stars, or even role players, develop while sitting early in their careers may not have much merit. Digging right down to the bottom of it, Seattle has a roster that is loaded with youth, but youth and potential don’t win games. Quality play wins games, and quality play comes from quality players.

And therein lies the possible issue, and makes watching how much the 2019 draft class contributes a topic to keep in the back of your mind.