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Seahawks near top of league in draft returns this millennium

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NFL Combine - Day 2

While much of the country is sitting at home waiting for restrictions put in place to battle the COVID-19 pandemic to be lifted, the NFL is moving forward with the draft as scheduled later this month. While it will certainly make for interesting watching as the league puts together a completely virtual draft with just a few weeks of notice, with just over two weeks until the draft arrives and the heart of free agency in the past the time has arrived to begin digging into expectations and outcomes for draft picks.

The Seattle Seahawks had a remarkable string of draft success in the early years of the Pete Carroll and John Schneider regime before hitting a couple of bumps in the road in the middle of the decade. This has shown on the field as the team has not been able to make it past the divisional round off the playoffs in recent seasons. As for how the Seahawks draft classes this millennium have stacked up against the rest of the NFL, here is how the team has performed relative to the rest of the league.

Helping to illustrate just how bare the cupboard was when Carroll and Schneider arrived in 2010, six of the nine draft classes prior to their arrival generated outcomes below expectations. In contrast, with Carroll and Schneider drafting since 2010, the team has had five of seven drafts come in above expectations.

In addition, while this table only looks at draft classes through 2016, the 2017 and 2018 classes are both on pace to surpass expectations as well. While that may seem incorrect at first glance simply because of the poor returns on the selections of several players on Day 1 and Day 2 of the draft. Specifically, the team has seen several players from the 2017 draft class underperform expectations, including:

  • Malik McDowell,
  • Ethan Pocic,
  • Lano Hill,
  • Nazair Jones,
  • Amara Darboh,
  • Mike Tyson and
  • Justin Senior.

However, while those players have underperformed relative to expectations, Shaqill Griffin, David Moore, Tedric Thompson and Chris Carson have exceeded expectations. Specifically, the entirety of the Day 3 group, including Thompson, Tyson, Senior, Moore and Carson have a combined five year expected AV production of 26.5 points for the 2017 through 2021 seasons. Giving that 26.5 points of AV a 40% haircut to account for the fact that the players have not been able to show what they can do on the field for 2020 and 2021, the expected return of the five players Seattle selected on Day 3 of the 2017 draft through now is somewhere in the neighborhood of 16 points of AV. That 16 points of AV is less than Carson himself has earned, as Carson has accumulated 21 through the first three seasons of his career in spite of missing time due to injury in every season.

Further, this outperformance of expectations shows the importance of trading down. 2017, of course, was the draft in which the Seahawks make the ill-fated selection of Malik McDowell. The Hawks originally held pick 1.26, which has a five year expected AV of 22.8, but the team traded that pick to the Atlanta Falcons in exchange for picks 1.31, 3.95 and 7.249. Pick 1.31 was then traded to the San Francisco 49ers for picks 2.34 and 4.111, and then finally pick 2.34 was traded to the Jacksonville Jaguars for picks 2.35 and 6.187.

At the end of all the wheeling and dealing, the Seahawks held picks 2.35, 3.95, 4.111, 6.187 and 7.249. Those picks have the following five year expected AV:

  • 2.35: 20.0
  • 3.95: 10.9
  • 4.111: 9.6
  • 6.187: 5.3
  • 7.249: 3.7

That means the expected five year AV return for the combined picks which Seattle eventually got back from trading out of 1.26 totals 49.5, which is, of course, far more than the 22.8 from which they started. Looking at how the picks made actually performed yields the following:

  • 2.35: Malik McDowell (0)
  • 3.95: Lano Hill (5)
  • 4.111: Tedric Thompson (8)
  • 6.187: Mike Tyson (0)
  • 7.249: Chris Carson (21)

Looking at that return, the value of trading back becomes apparent. Even though the Seahawks received absolutely nothing from their first overall pick besides headaches, Chris Carson by himself appears likely to pass the expected return for pick 1.26 by himself. That makes the selections of Hill, Thompson and Tyson, along with that of McDowell, one step away from being throwaways. Add in the fact that David Moore was taken with the seventh round pick Schneider somehow swindled out of the Carolina Panthers in exchange for Kevin Norwood and the 2017 draft is actually on pace to outperform expectations overall.

In short, the Seahawks have underperformed relative to expectations when it comes to individual draft picks, but by trading down and increasing the number of picks they hold, they have outperformed overall expectations.