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Seahawks have difficulty drafting for the trenches

NFL: SEP 29 Seahawks at Cardinals Photo by Kevin Abele/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

Fans of the Seattle Seahawks have spent the offseason screaming about needing to improve the pass rush in order to better pressure opposing quarterbacks in order to buy a little more time for the secondary. In the time since the legal tampering period of the NFL free agency period began last Monday, fans have watched several pass rushers sign elsewhere, while the Hawks have been left to wonder if they’ll be able to retain Jadeveon Clowney or watch him depart in free agency as well.

This comes on the heels of years of the team seeing fans complain about the performance of the offensive line and its inability to protect Russell Wilson. Fans had adamantly insisted that the issue has been the coaching, but over the ten years that Pete Carroll and John Schneider have been in charge of building the roster for the Hawks there is a remarkable void in talent drafted for the trenches on either side of the ball during this time period.

Specifically, looking at the players that the Seahawks have drafted for the trenches over this period of time, there are a whole lot of picks and not a lot of the kind of results one hopes for. To demonstrate, here are the 38 offensive and defensive linemen drafted by Seattle since 2010.

  • Bruce Irvin
  • Frank Clark
  • Jarran Reed
  • Cassius Marsh
  • Jaye Howard
  • Quinton Jefferson
  • Jordan Hill
  • Rasheem Green
  • Greg Scruggs
  • Obum Gwacham
  • Nazair Jones
  • Ty Powell
  • Ethan Pocic
  • Joey Hunt
  • L.J. Collier
  • E.J. Wilson
  • Lazarius Levingston
  • Malik McDowell
  • Jesse Williams
  • Jimmy Staten
  • Demarcus Christmas
  • Kristjan Sokoli
  • J.R. Sweezy
  • Jared Smith
  • Germain Ifedi
  • John Moffitt
  • Rees Odhiambo
  • Phil Haynes
  • Terry Poole
  • Mark Glowinski
  • Ryan Seymour
  • Garrett Scott
  • Russell Okung
  • James Carpenter
  • Justin Britt
  • Jamarco Jones
  • Justin Senior
  • Michael Bowie

That’s 38 draft picks on trench players, and between all of them they have combined to make exactly three Pro Bowls. Further, of those three Pro Bowls, two of them came after the players left Seattle. The only offensive or defensive lineman the Seahawks have drafted over the past ten years who has made the Pro Bowl while still with the Hawks is Russell Okung in 2012. That’s it. Okung and nobody else. In that same time frame book reading Michael Bennett and Cliff Avril combined for four Pro Bowl selections.

The only two members of the defense the Seahawks have drafted who have led the team in sacks over the past decade have been Clark and Green. Clark, after leading the team in sacks in consecutive seasons, was traded to the Kansas City Chiefs. Meanwhile Green led the team in sacks in 2019 with just four sacks.

Most are aware that sacks aren’t the best measure of a defender’s disruption of the quarterback, and Pro Bowls aren’t a great measure of a player’s skills and abilities. That said, the simple fact of the matter is that there is a full decade worth of track record of the Seattle front office coming up short when needing to build in the trenches through the draft. Stepping back and looking at the data for both sides of the ball, exactly how near to non-existent the returns have been throught he draft for the team’s pass rush is somewhat startline. Here’s a list of defensive players the Seahawks have drafted over the past decade and the number of sacks they recorded for the team:

  • Frank Clark: 35.0
  • Bruce Irvin: 22.0
  • Jarran Reed: 15.5
  • Quinton Jefferson: 7.5
  • Jordan Hill: 7.0
  • Rasheem Green: 5.0
  • Cassius Marsh: 3.0
  • Greg Scruggs: 2.0
  • Nazair Jones: 2.0
  • Jaye Howard: 0.0
  • Obum Gwacham: 0.0
  • Ty Powell: 0.0
  • Demarcus Christmas: 0.0
  • L.J. Collier: 0.0
  • Lazarius Levingston: 0.0
  • Malik McDowell: 0.0
  • Jimmy Staten: 0.0
  • Jesse Williams: 0.0
  • E.J. Wilson: 0.0

In summary, that’s nineteen draft picks spent on defensive linemen, with the players drafted producing 99 sacks. However, of those 99 sacks, 57 come from Clark and Irvin and 72.5 come from Clark, Irvin and Reed.

What sticks out about this is that Clark, Irvin and Reed were all first or second rounders. The most sacks they’ve gotten out of a third round pick or later came from Jefferson, who they initially released in 2017 and then had to round back and poach him off the practice squad of the Los Angeles Rams after Avril reinjured his neck against the Indianapolis Colts.

Basically, while the front office hasn’t missed on every trench player, the hits have been few and far between, and the biggest successes on either side of the ball have come via free agency:

  • Avril
  • Bennett

by way of trade:

  • Clowney
  • Duane Brown
  • Chris Clemons
  • Clinton McDonald

or inherited from the Tim Ruskell era:

  • Max Unger
  • Brandon Mebane

That leads to the question why the front office can find quality wide receivers and linebackers and defensive backs, but struggles in the trenches on both sides of the ball. No idea what the reason for that is, but the frustration is certainly compounded for many fans by the fact that the team has failed to extend the majority of its biggest successes in the trenches.